Air New Zealand wants new test flight rules after 2008 crash

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Air New Zealand on Friday called for new global regulations to control test flights following a French probe into the 2008 crash of one of its jets that killed seven people.

France's BEA air accident investigation agency blamed the Airbus A320 crash on pilots undertaking risky manoeuvres during an ad hoc test flight and on maintenance errors.

The plane plunged into the sea off France's Mediterranean coast on November 27, 2008, killing five New Zealanders and two Germans who were conducting a low speed, low altitude test after a technical overhaul.

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe welcomed the report, saying it showed the need for regulation on test flights.

"While this report will not change the fact seven families lost dads, husbands, brothers and sons and we lost great colleagues, the findings will benefit the entire aviation industry," he said in a statement.

Fyfe said test flights occurred every day around the globe but were not subject to a regulated standard.

"Clearly a regulatory framework to create consistency and further minimise the opportunity for a tragedy like this to happen is needed," he said.

The French investigators found the pilots were not competent to fly at such a low level and that ground crew had incorrectly washed the airliner, causing water to enter key detectors then freeze during the flight, disabling sensors.

The report noted that the journey was not a formal "test flight", legally speaking, but an impromptu run and that this might have led the pilots not to follow pre-assigned procedures.

New Zealand's Transport Accident Investigation Commission, which assisted with the inquiry, said the report's recommendations could help prevent a similar accident.

© 2010 AFP

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