Cause of Rio-Paris crash known end-June: minister

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Investigators will know what caused an Air France plane to crash into the Atlantic in 2009 by the end of June, when the flight recorders have been fully examined, the French government said Thursday.

"I think it will be the end of June," Transport Minister Thierry Mariani said on France Info radio, referring to the conclusion of analysis of data from the black box flight recorders, hauled from the ocean floor just this month.

The Airbus A330 crashed en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1, 2009, with the death of all 228 people on board.

It was only last month that investigators found the main wreckage in deep waters midway between Brazil and the west African coast.

Investigators say the cause of the accident remains unconfirmed, but interim inquiry results point to a problem with the jet's air speed probes -- known as "Pitots" -- which are thought to have iced up.

Both Airbus and Air France insist they reacted properly, and both companies are awaiting the results of the BEA inquiry. Courts are examining claims against both companies that blame them for the victims' deaths.

"There are enormous stakes, there is a plane manufacturer with the Bourget Air Show (in France) in a few weeks, there is the airline, there are the victims' families," said Mariani.

The director of the technical investigations by the BEA aviation authority, Alain Bouillard, told AFP on Wednesday that a first reading of the black boxes signalled no "major dysfunction" such as a power failure.

The boxes must now be examined in detail to check for other "smaller dysfunctions," he said.

The director of Air France-KLM, Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, told AFP on Thursday: "All the experts say it again and again -- an air accident is always, always a combination of several factors, of which none is the sole cause."

He added: "Air safety is not about knowing who is responsible but making sure that it will not happen again."

© 2011 AFP

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