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France

Air France points finger at Airbus over Rio-Paris crash

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-11-26

Lawyers for Air France have told investigators that European aerospace giant Airbus and French manufacturer Thales failed to heed warnings concerning speed censors in the months preceding the crash of flight AF 447 between Rio and Paris.

AFP - Air France has told judges probing a 2009 jet crash it was not to blame, and indirectly accused manufacturers Airbus and Thales over faulty speed probes, a source close to the inquiry told AFP.

"No breach of rules can be established on the part of Air France," the airline said in a memo detailing events leading up to last June's crash of flight AF-447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, which killed all 228 on board.
  
The source said that the 15-page memo, obtained by AFP, was "recently" handed over to investigating magistrate Sylvie Zimmermann in Paris and to experts involved in probing the Airbus A330-200's crash.
  
The French transport ministry said on Thursday that it will conduct another search for the flight's wreckage from February next year.
  
Crash investigators have said in previous reports that the plane's Pitot air speed monitors, manufactured by French company Thales, were giving false readings, but said this could not have been the sole cause of the disaster.
  
A series of automatic error messages were emitted by the onboard flight computer shortly before the plane disappeared from radar.
  
Other Airbus flight crews around the world had reported anomalies with the probes on other planes ahead of the Air France crash, and the airline claimed that it had already begun to seek solutions to the problem.
  
"The chronological analysis shows that Air France was constantly proactive in trying to remedy events linked to the malfunctioning of the Pitot probes," the Air France document said.
  
"Airbus and Thales felt that these events were minor and without potentially catastrophic consequences," the airline said, in what the source said was an indirect criticism of the manufacturers.
  
But the report added: "It is impossible to establish with certainty a cause and effect link between the Pitot probes' malfunctioning and the accident."
  
Air France also said it repeatedly alerted Airbus about a series of ice build-up incidents with the Thales probes.
  
Victims' families association head Jean-Baptiste Audousset told AFP the memo was an admission by Air France that it knew the faulty probes were a danger, but had continued to fly with them anyway.
  
"With this memo, Air France officially confirms that problems with the Pitot probes constituted a critical risk for the security of flights and that it was entirely aware because it was discussing the matter with Airbus since some time," Audousset said.
  
French pilots union Alter said the memo represented part of the battle between the different companies involved, as they seek to attribute legal responsibility -- and thus shares of future damages payments -- to each other.
  
"We're up against a company that limits itself to saying that it did its job by informing the authorities, without going any further. It did not change the Pitot probes in question," said Alter spokesman Christophe Pesenti.
  
He said the union, one of the first to point to problems with the Pitot probes, was convinced that "if there had been no Pitot probe malfunction the plane would have reached its destination."
  
The memo is the "beginning of the blame game between lawyers," Pesenti said.
  
"We would prefer for the truth to be established so that such an accident does not happen again."
  
Air France's memo also cleared the flight's crew of any responsibility.
  
An airline spokesman confirmed to AFP its lawyer Fernand Garnault had handed over to the judge and her experts a memo "relating the entirety of elements in its possession concerning the accident."
  
"This memorandum proceeds with a chronological factual description," he said. "It is for the investigating magistrate and was not meant to be released to the press. As a result, Air France has no comment to make."
  
Lawyers acting for the families of the victims allege the faulty Pitots, which were prone to icing and have now been replaced on other Airbus jets around the world, were to blame.

 

Date created : 2010-11-26

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