Friday, July 10, 2009

Air France pilots accuse safety bodies over Brazil crash

Air France pilots have accused air safety bodies of failing to prevent the Bralizilian tragedy which killed 228 people by ignoring warnings about faulty speed probes.

Speculation has grown over the speed sensors which fed inconsistent readings to the cockpit just before the Airbus A330 plunged into the Atlantic on June 1, with investigators saying they were a "factor", if not the cause of the crash.
The Union of Air France Pilots (SPAF) wrote to France's DGAC aviation authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), accusing both of ignoring a string of incidents involving defective airspeed, or pitot probes.

"For years the crews of A330/340 aircraft have been reporting cases of loss or variation of airspeed data in severe weather conditions," Gerard Arnoux, the head of SPAF, said in the letter.
"Appropriate measures" from either agency would have "helped prevent the sequence of events that led to the loss of control of the aircraft," which crashed en route from Rio to Paris killing all on board, he charged.
Arnoux said it was the "responsibility" of both agencies to "force the manufacturer Airbus to make the necessary changes" to the defective sensors.
The DGAC aviation authority declined to respond to the charges. The EASA was not immediately reachable for comment.
The SPAF letter mentioned a presentation made to the EASA in September 2007 as proof the agency was aware Airbus pitot probes had suffered "a significant number of operating incidents linked to icing over or heavy rain."
Air France decided on June 12 to upgrade all pitot probes on its long-haul fleet after protests from pilots, but neither the DGAC nor the EASA have asked Airbus or airlines to replace the sensors.
Conflicting airspeed data can cause the autopilot to shut down and in extreme cases lead the plane to stall or fly dangerously fast, causing a high-altitude break-up.
The French bureau leading the investigation into the AF447 crash, the Office of Investigations and Analysis for Civil Aviation (BEA), said in a report last week that the airliner's defective speed sensors were a "factor but not the cause" of the accident.
The BEA also said that the plane did not break up in mid-air, explaining that it hit the water belly-first while moving at strong "vertical" speed.

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