US families sue over Air France crash

2nd October 2009, Comments 0 comments

The families of two Americans killed when an Air France jet plunged into the seas off Brazil are suing the airline and the plane maker Airbus for negligence, court documents showed on Thursday.

According to the case filed on Wednesday with a court in Houston, Texas, the families of Michael and Anne Harris believe that the air speed monitors and radar equipment known as pitots on the Airbus 330-200 were to blame, among other faults, for the crash.

Flight AF 447 crashed on 31 May in waters off Brazil after taking off from Rio de Janeiro bound for Paris with the loss of all 228 people on board. The cause of the accident has not been confirmed and the flight recorders are still missing.

The families are claiming unspecified damages for the deaths of Michael and Anne Harris.

Air France "breached its duty of care in many ways", including "failing to properly navigate and/or operate the subject aircraft in a safe and competent manner by allowing the aircraft to fly with defective pitot tubes," the lawsuit says.

"Air France knew or should have known that if the subject aircraft was not operated following standard, reasonably prudent, and acceptable piloting techniques and skills in the operation of the subject flight, there would be an unreasonable risk of harm to persons operating, flying and/or being flown aboard the subject aircraft."

The lawsuit quotes from two Airbus documents dating from September 2007 and November 2008 about procedures for replacing the pitots.

"Airbus had specific and detailed knowledge of the enhanced dangers of flying with defective components," it added.

French manufacturers Thales, which builds the components, as well as American firms Honeywell International and Rockwell Collins are also named.

Air France would not comment on the case until it had examined the details, while Airbus Americas communications manager Mary Anne Greczyn said: "We are aware of it, but do not comment on open lawsuits."

Since the crash, international air safety agencies have ordered airlines to replace older pitot probes and those made by the Thales with newer versions made by the US manufacturer Goodrich.

French investigators have said it could take up to 18 months to wrap up their probe into the mysterious crash.

But other relatives of the crash victims have also pointed the finger at the jet's air speed monitors, which they say were faulty.

In particular, they have alleged that Airbus and Air France knew about longstanding concerns over the A330's Pitots but had failed to replace them.

Pilots say it is extremely difficult to control a modern jet, particularly at high speed and altitude in tropical weather, when the plane's three pitots are recording conflicting, false or absent air speed data.

There were 32 different nationalities on board the doomed flight, among them 72 French citizens, 59 Brazilians and 26 Germans.


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