Angry kin accuse Airbus, Air France of crash cover-up

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Relatives of the 228 people who died in an Air France crash mid-Atlantic between Rio and Paris last year lashed out at the airline Tuesday after another unsuccessful search for the plane's black boxes.

"Airbus and Air France are fleeing their responsibilities. They take us for idiots," the head of association of 100 families of those who perished on flight AF 447 in June 2009, Nelson Marinho, told AFP.

"We're furious. With all the information and technology they have, they can't even find enormous pieces like the planes fuselage. In fact, they don't want to find it," he charged.

Marinho claimed that the doomed plane had a malfunctioning component called a Back Up Speed Scale, or BUSS, which was meant to kick in when speed sensors failed, as happened in the case of AF 447.

"This component costs 320,000 euros and Air France didn't want to change it," Marinho said. He added that he had received the information from "Air France pilots."

Earlier Tuesday, in Paris, the French air crash investigation agency BEA said its last search for the wreckage of the plane had drawn a blank and the hunt was suspended for at least a month.

"The search came to an end yesterday (Monday)," said BEA chairman Jean-Paul Troadec.

"We have decided to perform a review of all the search operations, which began almost a year ago. We'll bring in our partners. It'll take at least a month or two to do this review and decide whether to continue the hunt."

So far, however, the agency has only said that the air speed sensors, called Pitots, which are thought to have iced up at high altitude, were a contributing factor to the crash and were not thought to be the sole cause of the tragedy.

Air France has since replaced the Pitots on its fleet of Airbus jets with a newer model, without saying that the older one was responsible, as some pilots and lawyers acting for the families have alleged.

Troadec insisted the BEA had not yet any clear scenario in mind as to what caused the crash, and warned that without finding the black boxes -- which now seems extremely unlikely -- the precise cause would be difficult to confirm.

© 2010 AFP

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