Two months after the crash of an Air France Airbus A330 into the Atlantic, the France-based aircraft manufacturer and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is urging companies flying its planes to replace their air speed measurement devices.
The findings of the investigation on Air France Flight 447 suggest that the faulty Thales sensors are very likely to have contributed to the accident that killed all 228 people that were on the plane.
EASA spokesman Daniel Hoeltgen said that the agency will stipulate that any airline that has A330s and A340s that are currently fitted with Thales pitot probes must be fitted with at least two Goodrich probes. This allows for a maximum of one Thales to remain fitted to the aircraft.
An Air France A330-200 was en-route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris when it suffered a rapid succession of technical problems after hitting turbulence early last Monday and plunged into the Atlantic. After the crash, Airbus has warned airline crews to follow standard procedures if they suspect speed indicators are faulty, suggesting that technical malfunction may have played a role in the crash.
Airbus speaker Schaffrath said: “We know that there were problems with the air speed measurement before the crash of the Air France plane. But we also know that this problem was not the only cause of the crash.”
The new proposal also seeks to ban all uses of any earlier version of the same model Thales speed probes that was installed on Air France Flight 447. Most Airbus long-haul planes are equipped with the Goodrich probes and that the recommendation concerns only about 200 of 1,000 Airbus A330s and A340s being flown commercially.
The crash investigators say that they suspect that the Thales probes on Flight 447 iced over. This caused them to send faulty speed-readings to the aircraft’s computer when it hit the turbulence thunderstorm.
Many airlines have already started to replace these speed monitors with next generation Thales probes. However, this month an Airbus A320 jet that was equipped with one of these new model Thales probes also malfunctioned, which led to a brief loss of speed readings and forced the pilot to fly manually with st by instruments.
The crash comes at a bad time for airlines, already reeling from a combination of weak travel and cargo demand, worries over flu and rising oil prices.