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Old June 9th, 2009, 08:03 PM   #121
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A330 airlines distance themselves from sensors
Tuesday June 9, 2009, 12:56 pm EDT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Several airlines flying the type of plane involved in the Air France crash said Tuesday they use a different brand of airspeed sensor than those aboard the doomed flight, distancing themselves from instruments seen as a possible factor in last week's accident.

At the same time, other carriers that use probes similar to those on the flight -- including Delta Air Lines Inc. and the Middle East's Qatar Airways -- said they are working to upgrade the devices on dozens of Airbus planes.

The plane disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean while on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, killing 228 people on board.

Focus on the sensors known as Pitot tubes intensified after Air France issued a statement last week saying it was in the process of replacing the instruments on the Airbus A330 model.

The cause of Air France Flight 447's crash on May 31 remains unclear. But one theory is that the sensors became iced over and gave incorrect readings. That could have caused the plane to fly either too slow or too fast.

The sensors aboard the plane were made by France's Thales Group and had not yet been replaced. Thales spokeswoman Caroline Philips confirmed the company made the Pitot tubes on the jet that crashed. The defense and aerospace manufacturer did not provide details on the devices or say how many other planes use them.

Emirates, the Middle East's largest airline and one of the biggest A330 operators, said the Pitot tubes aboard its planes were made not by Thales but by U.S. manufacturer Goodrich Corp. of Charlotte, N.C.

"We have not experienced any issues with our probe units," said Adel al-Redha, Emirates executive vice president for engineering and operations. "Emirates is in full compliance with all standard operating procedure recommendations issued by aircraft manufacturers, as well as with requirements stipulated by international air safety and regulatory authorities."

The Dubai-based carrier operates 29 of the A330-200 variant, more than any other airline. The model is the same used on Air France Flight 447.

Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways and Australia's Qantas Airways said their A330s are also equipped with Goodrich speed sensors.

"We are not concerned because it's a different system in our aircraft," Qantas General Manager for Government and Corporate Affairs David Epstein said.

A Goodrich spokeswoman could not be immediately reached for comment.

Pitot tubes and accompanying sensors feed crucial airspeed data and other information into cockpit computer systems. The sensors work in the same basic way, but may be designed differently depending on the plane type and manufacturer.

"It's like (aircraft) brakes. Some people use carbon, some people use steel," said independent airline consultant Bob Mann.

Concerns over the Thales sensors led an Air France union Monday to urge its pilots not to fly Airbus A330s and A340s unless at least two of the three Pitot sensors had been replaced. The Alter union represents about 12 percent of Air France pilots.

In a reflection of the growing concern surrounding the instruments, Qatar Airways posted a statement on its Web site Tuesday saying it is completing an "Airbus-approved modification" of Thales probes on all of its Airbus A319, A320, A321, A330 and A340 aircraft. The over 50 planes account form the bulk of the carrier's fleet.

Qatar Airways said the retrofit began last year, with 21 planes modified so far.

Atlanta-based Delta is currently installing new Pitot tubes from Thales on its A330 aircraft per the manufacturer's recommendation, spokeswoman Betsy Talton said.

"Until these installations are complete, we are communicating with our flight crews to reiterate the correct procedures to be used in the event of unreliable airspeed indications," Talton said.

Delta subsidiary Northwest Airlines also has installed new Pitot tubes on its A319/320 aircraft, Talton said.

Delta, the world's largest airline operator, owns 11 A330-200s and 21 A330-300s. It owns or leases 57 A319-100s and 69 A320-200s.

Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways, the other major U.S. A330 operator, has begun replacing the Pitot tube component on its A330s out of an abundance of caution, spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said, though she declined to identify the manufacturer. Nine of the carrier's 11 A330s are in regular service.

In Brazil, the private Agencia Estado news agency said the country's largest airline, TAM Linhas Aeras SA, has already replaced the Pitot tubes on its Airbus jets. TAM made the replacements after a 2007 recommendation from Airbus, Chief Executive David Barboni told Agencia Estado.

About 70 airlines operate versions of the 600 twin-engined A330s in use around the world.

Associated Press Writers Greg Keller in Paris, Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Alan Clendenning in Sao Paulo and Harry R. Weber in Atlanta contributed to this report.
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Old June 10th, 2009, 12:36 AM   #122
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Plenty of photos from the AF A330-200 here:
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Old June 10th, 2009, 08:45 AM   #123
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Air France crash: 41 bodies recovered

2009-06-10 07:30:00
Last Updated: 2009-06-10 08:23:46

Rio de Janeiro/Paris: Recovery teams have pulled an additional 17 bodies out of the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil, bringing the total number of bodies retrieved after last week's Air France plane crash to 41.

The airliner, travelling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris with 228 people on board, crashed into the ocean in the early hours of June 1 about 1,300 km northeast of Brazil's coast, in a region beset by rough seas and tumultuous storms, which have hindered recovery efforts.

Interpol to help identify Air France crash victims

As the Brazilian military continued to look for more bodies, the remains of 16 people that were recovered from the ocean over the weekend were brought to the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha, located near the crash site. The bodies will later be transferred to mainland Brazil, where they were to be examined by forensic experts from Brazil and France.

Brazilian civil aviation spokesman, Brigadier Ramon Cardoso, said the 25 bodies recovered on Monday and Tuesday were also being taken to the island.

Beginning on Wednesday the search area would be expanded to the north towards the Saint Paul and Saint Peter Rocks archipelago, in an area under the control of Senegal, Cardoso said.

The African country had authorised the activities of search aircraft and ships in that region, where the bodies of other occupants of the crashed Airbus A330-200 were believed to have been carried by marine currents.

The Brazilian military was also retrieving debris from the airliner, which would eventually be handed over to French authorities investigating the cause of the crash.

On Tuesday, they showed a photograph of one such portion of the plane - apparently a wing - which is aboard the recovery ship Constituicao, although they warned that it may be some time before such debris is transferred to Fernando de Noronha.

Brazil readies to identify 16 bodies from Air France crash

'Rescuing bodies remains our priority,' Tabosa said.

The cause of the worst commercial aviation disaster since 2001 remains a mystery. Eight days after the Airbus A330-200 plunged into the sea, the attention of investigators remained focused on the plane's airspeed sensors, which apparently malfunctioned in the final minutes of the doomed flight.

Because of the crash, Air France has presented its pilots with a schedule for replacing the sensors, called Pitot tubes, on its fleet of Airbus A330 and A340 planes, the online edition of the weekly Le Point reported on Tuesday.

According to a spokesman for a union representing Air France personnel, the replacement of two of three Pitot tubes on each plane is to take place in a few days. Pitot tubes provide information about ambient air pressure and therefore aid in measuring the airspeed of an aircraft.

Although no link between a malfunction of the Pitot tubes and the crash has yet been made, investigators are concentrating on their condition minutes before the crash, when the doomed Airbus A330-200 sent out a series of inconsistent airspeed readings.

But the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said on Tuesday that the breakdown of the Pitot tubes was probably not the reason for the accident.

The EASA nevertheless issued a safety advisory to airline pilots that they must rely on other flight data if the devices break down. The advisory from the Cologne, Germany-based agency went to all operators of intercontinental flights.

Another Air France union has told the carrier's pilots not to take command of any Airbus A330 or A340 plane in which at least two of the sensors have not been replaced.

Since 1995, there have been a number of cases in which the Pitot tubes indicated an incorrect airspeed, which prompted the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) in 2001 to order repairs to the devices, Le Figaro reported.

The measure was justified by the possibility of 'the loss of or fluctuations in airspeed indications in extreme weather conditions', the DGAC said at the time. It is believed the doomed Air France flight encountered a violent storm just before it fell out of the sky.

Brazil: Jet vertical stabilizer found, key clue

The international police agency Interpol said on Tuesday that it would aid in coordinating international efforts to identify the 228 victims, who came from 32 countries.

This will involve the collection of data from the recovered remains, such as tattoos, fingerprints, surgical implants and dental X-rays, Interpol said.

Recovery efforts involved 825 members of the Brazilian military, 14 aircraft - two of them French - and six ships, including one French ship. More Brazilian, French and US ships are expected in the coming days.

The French nuclear-powered submarine Emeraude and the amphibian ship Mistral were to join the efforts on Wednesday with a focus on finding the flight recorders in an area where the ocean floor is as much as 3,500 metres deep.

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Old June 10th, 2009, 04:03 PM   #124
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Submarine begins search for Air France jet's black boxes

CBC News
A French nuclear submarine arrived at the debris field of crashed Air France Flight 447 on Wednesday to begin searching the depths of the Atlantic Ocean for the plane's two black boxes, which should hold clues to the disaster.

The Emeraude sub will be able to trawl patches of about 35 square kilometres per day, said French armed forces spokesman Christophe Prazuck.

Air France Flight 447 was carrying 228 people from Rio de Janeiro to Paris when it crashed May 31. One Canadian was on board, Brad Clemes, a 49-year-old originally from Guelph, Ont., who lived in Belgium.

"There are big uncertainties about the accident site, the ocean floor is rugged … so it's going to be very difficult," Prazuck said. "It's going to be very complicated and we're going to need a lot of luck" to find the black boxes.

The ocean reaches depths of more than 6,000 metres in the area, where there are strong currents and a mountainous floor.

The sub will be trying to pick up the "pings" emitted by flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder from the crashed Airbus A330. The boxes — which are actually painted fire engine red, not black — are expected to emit their signals for 30 days following the May 31 crash.

The United States has also dispatched sophisticated listening equipment, which can pick up signals from up to 6,100 metres away. The equipment is expected to arrive at the debris field on Thursday.

A submersible previously used in the search for the sunken Titanic will be deployed from the French survey ship Pourquoi Pas to bring the recorders in if they're located, Prazuck said.

Finding the black boxes will be crucial to the investigation, which is currently focusing on the the possibility that external speed monitors — called pitot tubes — iced over and gave dangerously false readings to cockpit computers in a thunderstorm.

Monitors not replaced
Air France said it began replacing the pitot tubes on the Airbus A330 model on April 27, after an improved version became available, and would finish the work in the "coming weeks." The monitors had not yet been replaced on the plane that crashed.

The European Aviation Safety Agency, responsible for certification of Airbus planes, said Tuesday that it was "analyzing data with a view to issuing mandatory corrective action" following reports about the possible malfunctioning of the pitot tubes.

Meanwhile, Brazilian searchers said 41 bodies have now been recovered from the ocean, roughly 640 kilometres northeast of the Fernando de Noronha islands off Brazil's northern coast. The location is about 70 km from where the doomed jet sent out automated messages signalling electrical failures and loss of cabin pressure.

The recovered bodies are being transferred to Recife, where experts will try to identify them.

Determining the identity of a body, and knowing where that person was sitting in the plane and the types of injuries they sustained could offer further clues about the cause of the crash, officials said.
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Old June 10th, 2009, 04:52 PM   #125
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Pilots' union urges Airbus boycott after speed sensor fault is suspected in crash
10 June 2009
The Times

Air France scrambled to replace pressure sensors on its A330 Airbuses yesterday after a pilots' union urged crew to boycott the long-range jets because faulty airspeed readings are suspected over last week's crash off Brazil.

"To prevent a repeat of this disaster we call on flight deck and cabin crew to refuse flights aboard the A330 and A340 series which have not been modified," said Alter, a union to which 10 per cent of the airline's crew belong.

As salvage teams in the Atlantic recovered more of the 228 bodies from Flight 447, Air France and European aviation authorities sought to calm a scare over unreliable pitot tubes — the pressure probes that assist in measuring airspeed. Several airlines flying similar aircraft rushed to reassure passengers that they used a different sensor.

The first data from the doomed airliner reported a pitot failure and Air France has acknowledged that its jets had suffered several similar incidents. The Airbus went out of control as the electronic flight system failed after receiving conflicting airspeed readings via its three pitot tubes.

Pitot tubes have long been prone to blocking by ice, rain and insects. A failure in airspeed indication is a big handicap for a pilot but the aircraft can still be flown by hand with power settings and attitude, the orientation of the aircraft in relation to its flight direction.

Air France said that it was upgrading the probes, made by the French company Thales, on each of its 35 long-haul Airbuses but had not done so on the one that crashed on June 1. Last night the SNPL, the main pilots' union, said that two out of three pitot tubes had now been replaced on all A330s.

Seeking to calm fears, the European Aviation Safety Agency insisted that all A330s were airworthy and capable of flying "in complete safety." Airline executives and aviation experts warned against drawing hasty conclusions since the only evidence came from a sequence of 24 messages from the aircraft's final four minutes.

Submarines are now searching for the "black box" data recorders.

Unease over the A330 was strengthened by charges from the Alter pilots' union that Air France had covered up problems with the airspeed instruments. It emerged this week that the airline advised pilots on November 6 last year that there had been "a significant number of incidents" in which false speed readings had upset the automated flight system — in the manner that appears to have happened on Flight 447.

These incidents, from which the crew were able to recover, occurred at cruising altitude, said the two-page circular. As a result of the false readings — apparently caused by ice clogging up the pitot tubes — the automatic pilot disconnected. The data from the doomed Airbus last week reported the same sequence, but the pilots were unable to regain control. A parallel is being drawn with an incident last October in which a Qantas A330 dived inexplicably under the command of its flight system, seriously injuring several passengers. James Healy Pratt, a lawyer with Stewart Law, a London firm handling the Qantas incident, said that the sequence of events was the same, with fluctuating airspeed indications apparently causing the auto-pilot to disconnect.

Legal claims from victims' families are expected to multiply, costing Air France up to ¤300 million (£258 million), Mr Healy Pratt told The Times.

Nearly 1,000 aircraft from the A330/340 series of long-haul airliners are in service. None had killed a passenger before. However, pilots and experts focused on what some see as a fatal chain of events that highlights flaws in the highly automated flight system on Airbus airliners.

In modern aircraft, particularly the ultra-automated Airbus family, pilots have less direct control. With defective computers in the heart of a tropical storm, the crew of the stricken Air France jet may have lacked the information to keep it flying.

The recovery of the aircraft's rudder has strengthened suspicions among some experts that the plane went out of control and broke up as a result of flying either too slowly or too quickly in severe turbulence.

Still safer than staying at home

Analysis Charles Bremner

When you next board an Airbus, should you check that they have replaced the pitot tubes with a more reliable model? The question is reasonable, given that Air France Flight 447 may have fallen into the Atlantic last week after something clogged those little prongs that sprout from near the cockpit.

So how can a computer-packed, 21st-century flying machine be brought down by a dodgy speed-measuring device that was invented in about 1710? Perhaps a sense of proportion is needed. Flying on a major airline is probably safer than staying at home, if you look at injuries from domestic accidents. It is about as dangerous as taking the train in Europe. Nearly 1,000 members of the long-haul Airbus family are in use around the world, with 900 more on order. Over 15 years they have transported millions of people and, until last week, not one had been killed.

For this aircraft to fall out of the sky, a very unlucky chain of events had to have taken place. If it played a role, the 300-year-old invention of Henri Pitot, a French engineer, will have been part of a series of breakdowns of the kind that have always afflicted human endeavour.

Faulty airspeed may have confused computers in a severe storm and contributed to a loss of control that the crew could not handle. That sequence is extremely rare and no doubt includes a big dose of what the French call la faute de pas de chance. As in previous accidents, the investigation will lead to a fix for part of the chain, especially if the flight recorders are found — and flying will become a little safer still.

Airbus A330: no passenger deaths in 15 years before last week Brazilian sailors recover the rudder of Flight 447. Air France said that it was upgrading its sensors but had not done so on the aircraft that crashed
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Old June 10th, 2009, 04:53 PM   #126
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Divers find tail from Air France jet Stabilizer could prove crucial in solving mystery of why plane went down
10 June 2009
International Herald Tribune

SAO PAULO, Brazil-- Brazilian divers recovered eight more bodies and a distinctive red- and blue-striped tail section of the Air France jetliner that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean last week, a find that may help investigators narrow the hunt for the plane's voice and data recorders.

The bodies pulled from the sea Monday afternoon bring the total to 24, Brazilian military officers said. All 228 people aboard the flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris are presumed dead.

The bodies were found close to where previous ones were picked up, around 440 kilometers, or 275 miles, from the Sao Pedro and Sao Paulo islands, Capt. Giucemar Tabosa of the Brazilian navy said at a news conference in Recife, Brazil. The bodies will be brought to Brazil's mainland for examination by forensic and medical teams as soon as possible, following the 16 already on their way there, Captain Tabosa said.

With the reason for the crash still unknown, the autopsies may provide clues. Soot in windpipes or signs of carbon monoxide poisoning in blood, for example, would indicate that there had been an onboard fire.

But while the military emphasized that its priority was recovering bodies, the discovery of the stabilizer portion of the Airbus A330's tail could prove vital in deciphering what caused the plane to disappear from radar screens shortly before midnight May 31.

Military officials provided no details about the parts that were found, but photographs showed divers and sailors from a rubber dinghy tying a rope around what appeared to be the vertical stabilizer of the plane's tail section. The part, bearing the trademark stripes of Air France, bore no evident burn marks and had retained its triangular shape, save for a missing chunk where it appeared to have been torn from the plane.

The flight recorders are generally kept in the tail section of the plane, so the discovery could help narrow the search in the ocean's deep waters. The flight recorders represent investigators' best hopes for discovering why the plane went down in turbulent weather.

Experts said the photos show two visible areas of damage where the stabilizer attaches to the fuselage, and investigators will try to determine if this damage occurred in the air or when the part hit the water. The inspection also could show whether the stabilizer came off while the plane was moving forward or in some other direction. If the separation occurred on impact with the water, knowing which part of the tail hit first could prove to be important.

Another photograph shows recovered pieces of internal components of the plane, including wiring, but notably no signs of fire or charring.

A team of U.S. Navy searchers is being flown in along with two devices that can detect electronic signals to a depth of 20,000 feet, according to the Pentagon, The Associated Press reported. The devices will be used to listen for transmissions from the so-called black boxes, which are programmed to emit signals for at least three more weeks.
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Old June 10th, 2009, 09:59 PM   #127
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I hope they find the black boxes soon.
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Old June 11th, 2009, 06:09 AM   #128
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French Sub Begins Search For Black Box
June 11, 2009 09:53 AM
By Gerard Bon
Source: http://www.bernama.com.my/bernama/v5....php?id=417242

PARIS (Reuters) - A French nuclear submarine with advanced sonar equipment began searching on Wednesday for the flight recorders of an Air France airliner that crashed into the Atlantic last week, the French military said.

The Emeraude was sent to the area to hunt the "black box" recorders, which may help explain the disaster and which are believed to lie on the ocean floor.

Investigators face a long search for clues to what went wrong when the Airbus A330 jet disappeared on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris killing all 228 people on board, French military spokesman Christophe Prazuck said.

"Up to now, the time frame for the search for victims and debris has been of the order of days or a week. Here, at the very least, it's going to be of the order of weeks or months," he told LCI television.

The Air France flight is believed to have run into trouble when it hit a violent storm midway over the Atlantic Ocean and potential problems with speed sensors have become one of the focal points of the inquiry.

The European Aviation Safety Agency said on Tuesday it issued a reminder to pilots on how to proceed when they suspect airspeed readings are unreliable.

It said it was analyzing speed sensor data "with a view to issuing mandatory corrective action." The agency added it would not prejudge the outcome of the investigation and reiterated that Airbus planes are "airworthy and safe to operate."

Late on Wednesday, Airbus denied a report in an early edition of French daily newspaper Le Figaro that it was considering grounding its fleet of A330 and A340 planes following the crash.

"We are not considering grounding the fleet because it is safe to operate," said Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath.

Other causes have not been ruled out, but France's interior ministry said two passengers identified as suspicious turned out not to be a concern. The website of the French weekly L'Express had quoted a French military spokesman as saying they could have been linked to Islamic terrorism.


Brazilian military search teams using planes and ships had recovered 41 bodies by Tuesday, but none were found on Wednesday. Briefing reporters, Air Force Brigadier Ramon Borges Cardoso said visibility had been poor in the search areas.

Television pictures showed a military plane preparing late on Wednesday to fly the first 16 bodies found to Recife on mainland Brazil from the archipelago Fernando de Noronha off the northeast coast, where the search operations are based.

The 16 bodies had undergone preliminary identification procedures which would be continued in Recife.

Cardoso said the search for bodies would continue until around June 19, but could go on further if weather conditions and ocean currents were favourable.

Military planes expanded their search into airspace controlled by Senegal due to ocean currents that may have swept some bodies in that direction, Brazil's Air Force said, but searches there on Wednesday were interrupted by bad weather.

France has sent about 400 military personnel, three planes, one frigate with a helicopter, and a research vessel with mini-submarines as well as the nuclear submarine.

In the search zone, where scattered pieces of debris including a large section from the aircraft tail have been recovered, vessels are trying to comb a rugged area of the ocean floor, thousands of metres below the surface.

Prazuck said searchers had taken two weeks to locate the black box recorders after the crash of a Boeing 737 at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in 2004, despite much easier conditions.

"Here the accident happened 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from the coast. The situation is very complex," he said.

He said the Emeraude was searching an area of 36 square kilometres (14 sq miles) and the search zone would change daily. If the recorders are found, miniature submarines from the Pourquoi Pas, the French exploration and survey ship, could be used to retrieve them.

The doomed plane sent 24 automated messages in its final minutes on June 1, detailing a rapid series of systems failures.

The speed sensors that gauge how fast an aircraft is flying have become the focus of the investigation after some of the messages showed they provided inconsistent data to the pilots.

Air France said on the weekend it had noticed icing problems on the speed sensors known as pitot tubes in May 2008 and had asked Airbus for a solution. Airbus responded by reaffirming existing operating procedures, according to Air France, which decided to go ahead and change the sensors from April 27. The A330 that crashed had not yet been modified.

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Old June 11th, 2009, 08:19 AM   #129
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Originally Posted by KB View Post
I hope they find the black boxes soon.
Given the location of the crash in the middle of the Atlantic, it might be a very difficult operation to retrieve them, especially if the sea floor is rugged terrain.

Air France: Was It a Fatal Glitch?
15 June 2009

Investigators probing the crash of Air France Flight 447 are focusing on the possibility that equipment malfunction may have caused the plane essentially to crash itself. A sheaf of fault messages sent automatically to Air France’s maintenance department show that instruments aboard the Airbus 330 were reporting different airspeeds, possibly because precipitation had clogged sensors known as Pitot tubes. The pilot and copilot receive airspeed data collected by separate sensors, meaning that if either failed, the two pilots likely received conflicting information. Those discrepancies could have caused either the crew or automatic control systems to make wrong decisions about how fast to fly the plane as it headed into heavy weather.

Similar malfunctions were key factors in a pair of little-noticed 1996 crashes. In one, off the coast of the Dominican Republic, investigators found that a Pitot tube had been stopped up by an insect infestation. In the other, near Lima, an inquiry determined that maintenance staff forgot to remove masking tape placed over sensor ports. In the case of Flight 447, messages received from the plane “indicate inconsistency between measured airspeeds—which means how fast the plane was going is not clear,” Airbus spokeswoman Mary Anne Greczyn told NEWSWEEK. “We don’t yet know why.”
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Old June 11th, 2009, 10:03 AM   #130
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Air France Captain Dubois Let Down by 1-Pound Part, Pilots Say

By Albertina Torsoli and Laurence Frost

June 11 (Bloomberg) -- Marc Dubois, the 58-year-old captain of the Air France flight that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean, may have been let down by an airplane part that weighs about a pound.

The plane’s three sensors, known as Pitot tubes, that measure airspeed may have malfunctioned when Dubois and two co- pilots were four hours into Flight 447, according to pilot union officials who examined the data. Air France pilots have reported mid-flight failures of one or two of the tubes before, and all three showing differing data could trigger a chain of events that break down systems meant to make air travel safer, pilots said.

“We have come so far, and accidents like these should no longer happen,” said Christophe Pesenti, an Air France pilot for 10 years who has flown as Dubois’s co-pilot in the past.

The sensors may have been damaged by ice or obstruction, causing unreliable speed readings, which may have contributed to the accident, French investigators said after reviewing data transmitted by the doomed plane in its last minutes. The plane sent 24 automated breakdown messages before crashing June 1 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, with 228 people on board.

“What we know is that these pilots were confronted with serious technical problems and erroneous indications of speed in the cockpit,” said Eric Derivry, a spokesman for Air France’s biggest pilots’ union who has been a pilot there for 18 years. “Speed information is an element that’s basic to piloting an airplane. Airspeed readings are crucial for pilots to keep control of the aircraft.”

‘Near Impossible’

Pilots rely on the airspeed readings because flying too fast can damage a plane’s airframe and traveling too slowly risks losing lift in a so-called aerodynamic stall.

Pitot tubes give airplane speed by measuring air pressure, said John Hansman, director of the International Center for Air Transportation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tubes blocked with ice can give false readings that might lead computerized systems on the plane to misfire, he said.

Discrepancies among readings from the Airbus A330’s airspeed sensors could have triggered the shutdown of the autopilot four minutes before the last message from the jet, or pilots may have taken control when they became concerned about that data or something else, the French agency investigating the crash said.

“Piloting becomes very difficult, near impossible,” without reliable speed data, said Bruno Sinatti, president of Alter, Air France’s third-biggest pilots’ union, representing six percent of the airline’s pilots, on TF1 television on June 9.

Alter’s call to its members to stop flying A330s and A340s without upgrades on at least two of the three sensors prompted Air France on June 9 to say it would swap all the older Thales SA-made sensors for newer models by the end of the month.

Not Enough

Air France said on June 6 that it began replacing the component with a more ice-resistant version in April, 18 months after Airbus advised customers to make the switch.

“The only question we have is why, if these sensors showed signs of weakness a while ago, why the modifications that were suggested by the constructor have not been adopted by Air France?” said Sinatti.

Air France said it began changing the probes on the A320 in 2007 because “water ingress had been observed” on those models, something that didn’t show up on A330s and A340s.

An Air Safety Report cited in French weekly Le Canard Enchaine on June 10 showed at least three of the last 10 “incidents” at Air France related to pitot sensors -- an AF279 flight from Paris to Tokyo, an AF908 flight from Paris to Antananarivo, Madagascar and another Air France flight between Cayenne and Paris.

“The loss of measured air speed indicators is not in itself enough to cause this type of tragedy,” said Justin Dubon, an Airbus spokesman. “At this stage, further information is vital to understanding fully what happened.”

Dubois’s Craft

The aircraft commanded by Dubois was an Airbus A330 whose sensors had not yet been changed. The first automated system- failure message in a string of radio alerts from the crashed jet explicitly indicated that the sensors were faulty, Alter said.

“We are trained for situations like these, every possible situation is planned for, in theory,” said Pesenti, the pilot who knew Dubois. “In reality, you can always face situations that you were not trained for or that you are not ready for. All the training in the world, all the experience, may end up not being enough.”

Dubois, who joined Air France in 1998, clocked 11,000 hours of flying, including 1,100 on A330s, Air France said.

“He knew the plane he was flying, he knew the route, and he could rely on weather forecasts, which give an idea of what to expect,” Derivry said. “But then he was confronted with reality and the reality a pilot finds can be very different from what he had been expecting.”

Debris, Weather

The two co-pilots, Pierre-Cedric Bonin and David Robert, had together accumulated 9,600 hours of flying. Dubois was close to retirement, Le Parisien reported June 3 on its Web site.

Bonin, 32, had taken his wife Isabelle along with him to Brazil, the newspaper said. The couple left behind two boys, aged four and eight, the French daily added. Air France declined to provide more details on the flight’s crew.

Brazilian and French authorities have recovered hundreds of pieces of debris from the Atlantic Ocean that will be used by investigators to try and piece together evidence to determine the series of events that culminated in the crash.

“An airplane accident is never the result of just one element,” said Derivry. “Even the technical dysfunction doesn’t explain the accident. The Rio-Paris route isn’t a particularly difficult one. It does pass through an inter-tropical zone, close to the equator, where weather phenomena can be pretty intense.”

Investigators may learn more about the pilots’ last minutes if they find the black box that records conversation in the cockpit. That box and another that records data about the aircraft’s operation are being sought by a French submarine.

One question among pilots is why there was no distress call from the cockpit. The only thing one can say on that is that “whatever happened must have been sudden and extremely violent,” Derivry said.
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Old June 11th, 2009, 10:08 AM   #131
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Airbus denies planning to ground A330/340 fleet

PARIS, June 10 (Reuters) - Airbus denied on Wednesday a French newspaper report that it is considering grounding its fleet of A330 and A340 planes in the wake of last week's Atlantic plane disaster, saying they are safe to fly.

Le Figaro reported in its early Thursday edition that Airbus does not exclude the move after the Air France plane, an A330, crashed during a storm.

Responding to the report that Airbus may ground the fleet of almost 1,000 jets and order airlines to change speed sensors, Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath told Reuters: "We are not considering grounding the fleet because it is safe to operate".

The report appeared on the front page of Le Figaro's Thursday edition, which was released before publication.

The twinjet A330 and four-engine A340 come from the same family of aircraft and have many shared components. The longer-distance A340 has four engines instead of the A330's two.

There are 605 A330s and 359 A340s in operation, according to the planemaker, part of European aerospace group EADS.

These include 340 of the variant involved in last week's disaster, known as the A330-200.

French crash investigators have said the Air France jetliner sent out 24 error messages including one suggesting that its speed sensors, known as pitot tubes, were giving inconsistent readings. But they have stressed it is too early to say whether this was linked to the cause of the crash.

The sensors on the Air France plane were built by Thales which has declined to comment pending investigations.

According to Airbus, the Thales sensors are an optional alternative to the sensors in the basic design of the A330, which are made by Goodrich of the United States.

They are among many components on an aircraft for which airlines can choose between alternative suppliers.
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Old June 11th, 2009, 03:10 PM   #132
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i've noticed ever since this accident, people have become sorta nervous towards the A330...probably because its their first accident...

in my flying life the A330 is the most type of plane i've ever flown in...and never encountered anything...its just proof that even with the most advanced and fail-safe a plane is...an accident is still likely to happen...
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Old June 11th, 2009, 04:28 PM   #133
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It's generally those with no or poor knowledge of aviation that bash the A330.
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Old June 11th, 2009, 08:40 PM   #134
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Brazil Says Chances of Finding All Air France Victims ‘Remote’

By Helder Marinho and Diana Kinch

June 11 (Bloomberg) -- There is only a “remote” chance that searchers will find all of the victims from the Air France flight that crashed last week in the Atlantic Ocean with 228 people aboard, a Brazilian official said today.

Authorities will decide next week whether to extend the search until June 25, depending on whether more remains are found, air force Brigadier Ramon Cardoso told reporters in Recife, in northeast Brazil. Forty-one bodies have been retrieved since the plane went down on June 1. French searchers have spotted more bodies, and are moving to the area, he said.

“We have told families of passengers that the possibility of recovering all of the bodies that were in the aircraft is extremely remote,” Cardoso said at the press conference.

Air France Flight 447 went down en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Officials have expanded the search area to waters under the jurisdiction of Senegal, on Africa’s west coast. The main search area is about 1,350 kilometers (840 miles) northeast of Recife.

The distance between bodies recovered has been as great as 120 kilometers, according to Brazil’s military. Cardoso said today that the military has shuttled 37 pieces of the downed Airbus SAS A330-200 to the mainland.

The latest bodies were spotted in Senegalese waters, Cardoso said. Poor weather in the area is hampering the search for remains and debris, he said.

“We do not have information on how many bodies were seen,” Cardoso said. “It is getting more difficult to find” the victims, he said.

Investigators are examining whether ice damage or an obstruction of the plane’s airspeed sensors caused unreliable readings that may have contributed to the crash.
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Old June 12th, 2009, 09:54 AM   #135
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Brazil Recovers Three More Bodies From Air France Flight 447

BRASILIA, June 12 (Bernama) -- Three more bodies of the victims of the Air France passenger plane that crashed in the Atlantic have been recovered near Fernando de Noronha archipelago, bringing the total number found to 44, Xinhua news agency quoted the Brazilian Air Force as saying on Thursday.

The bodies were located by a plane searching the open seas for bodies or debris from the crashed airplane, and were recovered by the Constitution, a Brazilian navy ship, which sailed to the site later, Brazilian Air Force's Lieutenant-Brigadier Ramon Borges Cardoso said.

"It is expected that the bodies will arrive at the archipelago early on Saturday," Cardoso said.

He added that there are possibilities of finding more bodies in the area. "However, we did not collect any remains of the plane on Thursday," he said.

Cardoso said that the first 16 recovered bodies were taken to the Institute of Legal Medicine to be identified, while 25 other bodies were taken to the Fernando de Noronha archipelago for preliminary identification.

He also said the military will discuss whether the search should continue after June 19, which is set to be the last day of the search.

Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330, vanished over the Atlantic on June 1 after leaving Rio de Janeiro for Paris, with 228 people on board.

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Old June 12th, 2009, 10:32 AM   #136
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FACTBOX-Attention centres on Air France speed sensors

June 10 (Reuters) - Air accident investigators have said an Air France Airbus A330 was registering "inconsistent" speed readings before it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean last week.

Air France has since said it noticed temporary loss of air speed data on previous Airbus flights due to icing up of the speed sensors, or pitot tubes.

Aviation experts and pilots' unions have asked whether the same thing might have happened on the doomed Airbus A330 as the pilots tried to navigate equatorial thunderstorms.

Here are details and background on the pitot tube:


Pitot tubes on aircraft are typically heated to prevent them becoming clogged with ice. Investigators are looking into whether this mechanism failed, but the head of France's air accident agency has said it is too soon to say if problems with the sensors were in any way responsible for the crash.

A French pilots' union, Alter, said on Tuesday that "there is a real risk of losing control of an Airbus" in the event of a pitot tube malfunction, but added that it was drawing no conclusions on the cause of flight 447's crash.

Another pilots' union, SNLP, said frozen pitot tubes could not be the sole reason for the disaster.

Widely used to gauge the speed of aircraft, pitot tubes are also used to measure wind and gas speed for industrial purposes.

Air France has said all its flights using long-haul Airbus jets will be equipped immediately with new speed sensors, a pilot's union said on Tuesday.


Blocked speed sensors have been blamed for contributing to aircraft crashes in the past.

In 1996, a report into the crash of a Boeing 757 airliner off the Dominican Republic blamed a faulty reading by the pitot tube -- which was blocked by dirt or insect remains -- for the disaster, alongside pilot error.


The devices were invented nearly three centuries ago and still play a key role in 21st century high-tech avionics.

Invented in 1732 by French engineer Henri Pitot, they were used to measure the flowing speed of rivers and canals.

The device consists of a tube with two holes, bent at a right angle. The first hole is placed in the moving air (or in Pitot's days, water), with the mouth of the bent section aimed upstream to measure its velocity.

The side hole measures static air pressure, and the difference between the two is used to calculate airspeed.

Pitot tubes can be mounted on a plane in several different ways -- including from the edge of the wing, or on the exterior of the fuselage. The A330 Airbus has three pitot tubes.


The pitot tubes on Airbus planes are made by French firm Thales and Goodrich Corp of the United States.

An older Thales model was on flight 447. This model is being replaced on all Air France's longhaul Airbus planes.

Emirates, which operates 29 A330s -- the largest such fleet in the world -- told Reuters its planes were fitted with the Goodrich Corp tubes, adding that these had not suffered the sort of problems reported by Air France.

Another big user of the A330, Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways, said its speed sensors were also made by Goodrich "so there is no question of replacing or changing them".

Thales was not immediately available for comment.
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Old June 12th, 2009, 10:42 AM   #137
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Air France had speed probe problems five times in a year
11 June 2009
Agence France Presse

Air France Airbus jets experienced at least five incidents last year in which airspeed probes malfunctioned, two of which caused stall alarms, according to a company report seen by AFP Thursday.

A probe into last week's loss of AF 447 from Rio to Paris, in which an A330 jet plunged into the Atlantic with the loss of all 228 people on board, has focused on the contradictory speed readings from its "pitot probes".

Air France and Airbus insist that there is not yet any proof the pitots were to blame for the catastrophe, but accept that automatic error messages sent before the plane went down showed they were malfunctioning.

Airbus has urged pilots of the A330 and A340 to update themselves on the emergency procedures to take if the probes give contradictory readings, and Air France has accelerated its programme to replace the suspect pitots.

According to an internal Air France safety report dated September 12, 2008 which was obtained by AFP and authenticated by Air France pilots, the speed probes caused problems five times on flights last year.

To protect the anonymity of pilots involved in the incidents, the Air France report does not give the dates when the problems happened.

They concerned flight AF 279 between Tokyo and Paris, a flight between Paris and Antananarivo, flight AF 101 between Guangdong and Paris, AF 422 between Paris and Bogota and a flight between Paris and New York.

"These are all serious incidents," said Guy Ferrer, an official from the Alter pilots union, which represents some Air France flight crews.

"They are all linked to the pitots in conditions of icing or turbulence."

Since last week's crash, aviation experts have said that if the pitots give false speed readings to the cockpit it can cause the autopilot to shut down and in extreme cases the plane to stall or fly dangerously fast.

According to the report, after the Tokyo to Paris flight maintenance crews found that drainage holes in three pitot tubes were blocked, and that this would explain how they iced up and gave fluctuating speed readings.

Plane manufacturer Airbus was "given a full report" into this "because of similar problems encountered on the A330 and A340 fleet" and "often encountered on the A320 fleet" on which the probes have been replaced.

On the Antananarivo flight the pilot heard the alarm signifying "IAS discrepancy" which sounds when airspeed data is unclear, followed by the warning "stall stall stall" indicating the plane was about to go down.

The pilots regained control in that case, but French officials have speculated that in last week's accident, which took pace in a fierce thunderstorm, faulty speed data may have contributed to catastrophe.

Flying between Paris and Bogota, a pilot reported "losing two speed measures ... with stall alarm". The crew was about to issue a "mayday" crash warning when the problem resolved itself and screens returned to normal.

"It's very stressful. It's an alarm that sounds and a large flashing panel that you can't shut off. It's possible that crews take inappropriate action because of these alarms," said Ferrer.

According to experts, at high altitude such as that at which AF 447 was flying, the margin of airspeed within which a plane can safely manoeuvre, the so-called "coffin corner", is much reduced.

Only 30 to 40 knots (55 to 75 kilometres per hour) separates the lowest safe speed, below which the plane stalls, and the highest, above which it becomes impossible to control and might plunge or break up.

Air France made no immediate comment on the report, but an earlier leaked document also seen by AFP and acknowledged as genuine by the airline noted "a certain number of incidents" with speed probes.
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Old June 13th, 2009, 10:27 AM   #138
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Air France Wreckage Searchers Recover 6 Bodies for Total of 50

By Helder Marinho and Diana Kinch

June 13 (Bloomberg) -- Six more bodies from last week’s Air France crash have been recovered from the Atlantic Ocean by the French ship Mistral as the hunt for victims and debris goes on amid bad weather conditions, the Brazilian military said.

The six are in addition to the 44 bodies already recovered, Brazilian Navy Vice Admiral Edison Lawrence told a news conference in Recife yesterday.

The search for wreckage from the June 1 crash concentrated on a spot about midway between Brazil and Senegal, as authorities held out hope there may still be a chance of recovering more bodies near the site where the Airbus SAS A330- 200 last reported its position. The plane carried 228 passengers and crew.

“The weather has not been favorable in the area of the search,” Ramon Borges Cardoso, a Brazilian Air Force brigadier, said at the Recife press conference. The Brazilian search team spotted no bodies yesterday, he said.

Debris that may be part of the plane’s wing, the biggest part recovered so far, is on its way to Recife, on Brazil’s northeast coast, Lawrence said. That piece may give investigators a clue about how the accident occurred, according to Cardoso.

“Technically, there are possibilities of recovering bodies up to 20 days after the accident,” Cardoso said. “Of course, that depends on other variables.” He didn’t elaborate. The search will continue for as long as there are chances of finding more bodies, he said.

37 Items

The search yesterday concentrated on an area within a radius of 65 kilometers to 70 kilometers, about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) from Recife, Cardoso said.

A technical team from the BEA, the French agency responsible for the crash investigation, arrives from France tomorrow to inspect debris. The French consul to Recife is already in charge of the 37 items flown to Recife so far, Cardoso told reporters. These include part of an internal wall with two flight attendants’ seats attached.

Air France Flight 447 went down en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Investigators are examining whether ice damage or an obstruction of the plane’s airspeed sensors caused unreliable readings that may have contributed to the crash.

Accurate airspeed readings are crucial because flying too quickly can damage a plane’s airframe, while traveling too slowly produces a stall and loss of control.

The French navy’s nuclear attack submarine Emeraude, equipped with advanced listening equipment, has joined the hunt for the flight recorders, known as black boxes. The devices may provide clues to what caused the crash.
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Old June 13th, 2009, 10:30 AM   #139
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Air France pilots faced a cascade of failures

Debris from the Air France Airbus A-330 that crashed into the Atlantic late last month with 228 people aboard is displayed in the northern Brazilian city of Recife.
First, a glitch appeared in the air speed sensors of Air France Flight 447. Then, according to aviation experts, one high-tech system after another of the highly automated jetliner began going off line.
By Ralph Vartabedian and Devorah Lauter
June 13, 2009
Reporting from Paris and Los Angeles -- The first sign of trouble was a glitch that appeared in the air speed sensors.

Inside the sleek cockpit of Air France Flight 447, according to aviation experts, the crew would within minutes be confronted with a cascade of mysterious system failures.

The atmosphere of a routine international flight would vanish. Warning lights would be flashing and alarms would sound as one high-technology system after another of the highly automated jetliner began going off line.

At the same time, the Airbus A-330 was flying through turbulence caused by a tropical storm rising from the equator 35,000 feet below that was capable of jostling the pilots so strongly that they may have had difficulty reading the cockpit instruments.

Were the wings level? What speed were they traveling? Why were the computers reducing their ability to move the plane's control surfaces? As the pilots frantically worked to understand what was happening during the chaotic final minutes before the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on May 31, the sky was illuminated by sporadic flashes of lightning.

"It would tax a really experienced pilot," said Robert Ditchey, a pilot, aeronautical engineer and former U.S. airline executive. "All hell is breaking loose."

French authorities investigating the accident that claimed the lives of 216 passengers and 12 crew members are still at the early stages of determining the cause. But preliminary evidence has already made it clear that the flight crew was battling a multitude of problems during the final four minutes.

The jetliner sent out 24 automated messages about abnormalities to Air France's maintenance department in the minutes before the crash. The airline has not released that data, but some information has been leaked to outside aviation experts, and ultimately to the news media.

The initial event, based on what is known so far, was the simultaneous failure of three sensors that determine airspeed. The sensors are called pitot tubes, a decades-old technology that pilots still depend upon.

Pilots rely on several instruments for speed information. A system of laser gyroscopes and a separate GPS system can tell pilots their ground speed. But the pitot system provides data about the speed of air flowing across the wings, crucial to maintaining lift.

If all that information disappears, as apparently happened, Air France provided pilots with an emergency procedure checklist.

"It's a very long checklist," said Guillaume Pollard, an Air France pilot and a member of one of the three unions representing the airline's pilots. "You have to take the book out, look for the right page, be available to read what is written and understand what is written. So you have to have practically nothing else to do but to read this list."

Airbus officials warned against reading too much into the failure of the airspeed sensors.

"We know there has been an indication of unreliable airspeed, but we don't know how it is linked to other events," said Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath. "What we know for sure is that data transmitted, including the unreliable airspeed, do not explain the accident of AF447."

Louis Jobard, the president of one of the Air France pilots unions, said the loss of the airspeed data "doesn't justify an accident." Nonetheless, the union obtained a pledge from Air France that it would immediately replace at least two of the three pitot tubes on each of the airline's jets.

When the pitot tubes failed, Flight 447's autopilot disengaged, forcing the crew to fly the plane "by hand." Pilots would need to keep the wings and nose of the plane at their proper attitude and maintain proper lift, tasks made difficult if airspeed is uncertain and turbulence is buffeting the plane.

"One of the toughest things for a pilot to do if you have multiple emergencies is trying to determine which is the most critical one. That is the one you deal with first," said Amos Kardos, a veteran U.S. commercial pilot. "It is tough to stay on top of it if there is a multiple failure scenario."

Kardos and others say flying a plane manually should not be difficult in normal circumstances, but Air France 447 was apparently in a tough fix.

After the autopilot disengaged, at least two other systems went off line.

The system of laser gyroscopes that provides crucial information about the pitch and roll of the plane failed, meaning that the pilots may have lost their primary electronic image of the horizon.
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Old June 14th, 2009, 07:00 PM   #140
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EADS CEO: AF 447 downed by 'convergence' of causes
14 June 2009

PARIS (AP) - Air France Flight 447 was brought down by a "convergence of different causes," although it's too early to know what they are, the head of Airbus' parent company said.

Airbus made the A330-200 plane flown by Air France that crashed May 31 with 228 people on board en route to Paris from Rio de Janeiro. Industry experts have called the plane one of the safest in the world.

"In such an accident, there is not one cause," EADS CEO Louis Gallois said in comments held for release Sunday. "It's the convergence of different causes creating such an accident."

Investigators have focused on the possibility that external speed monitors, called Pitot tubes, iced over and gave false speed readings to the plane's computers as it ran into a turbulent thunderstorm.

Air France ordered these Pitot tubes, which are made by France's Thales Group, replaced on long-range Airbus planes on April 27 after pilots noted a loss of airspeed data in a few flights on Airbus A330 and A340 models. Pitot tubes on the jet that crashed had not been replaced yet.

But Gallois said investigators "don't know if Pitots are part of the accident."

"We know that Thales has improved its Pitots with a new one because they had some problems with water at the takeoff and landing," he said. "It was not a problem which is the same as the problem faced by an airplane flying at 25,000 feet."

Airbus, and not Thales, is "responsible for the airplanes, that's clear," he said.

Airbus CEO Tom Enders said the planemaker was working with Air France and the French authority leading the investigation, the BEA, to solve "the riddle about this accident."

"It certainly does not provide any consolation to the families and friends of the victims if we look at the statistics that flying today is much safer than 10 or 15 years ago or we look at the A330 group this is one of the safest and most efficient aircraft that ever went into commercial service," Enders said.

Finding the plane's flight recorders -- whose locator signals begin to fade after 30 days -- is key to determining how and why the Airbus A330 went down en route to Paris from Rio de Janeiro. Debris and bodies from the jet also contain crucial clues.

"It's essential for everybody to know what happened and we know that it's not easy," Gallois said. "I hope we will find the black box."

So far, there is no evidence of an explosion or terrorist act, but there were a number of clues that describe systemic failures on the plane. A burst of 24 automatic messages sent during the plane's final minutes of flight show the autopilot was not on, but it was not clear if it was switched off by the pilots or if it had stopped working due to conflicting airspeed readings.

Gallois and Enders spoke Saturday at a media day hosted by European Aeronautics Defense and Space Co. ahead of the Paris air show, which starts Monday.
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