Paris Air Show

A330 Accident: Pitot Tubes Not to Blame?

 - June 14, 2009, 3:34 AM

Louis Gallois would not fuel speculation about what caused the Air France A330 to crash into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, but he did say that the replacement of pitot tubes had been instigated due to problems in takeoff and landing, not in cruise. This contradicts more than a week of speculation that a pitot tube failure may have been a major contributory factor to the accident.

“It is essential to know what happened,” he said. “Airbus is cooperating fully with the BEA [France’s Bureau d’Enquete Accidents accident investigation agency]. I hope we find the Black Box [flight recorders] and I hope sincerely that we will find the root cause. It takes the convergence of different causes to create such an accident, [so] it’s much too early to look at causes.

“We are responsible for the aircraft, it’s clear, but we don’t know if the pitots were part of the accident. Thales has improved the pitot [design] but the problem was with water on takeoff and landing, not a problem faced by aircraft flying at 25,000 feet. We have no idea for the time being [what caused the accident] and even if we had, it would be for the BEA. It takes weeks, if not months, to know exactly what happened. We have a huge responsibility [to the families] not to elaborate on technical matters.”

Meanwhile, the search for the flight recorders of the doomed AF447 flight has narrowed to a 40-mile radius area. This is a still a large surface to be covered by the sonar of the four French ships, including a nuclear submarine, involved. The area is centered on an area northeast of Brazil, the last position sent automatically by the Airbus A330.

On Saturday, Brazilian media reported that the recovered wreckage shows no evidence of an explosion or a fire, therefore ruling out a bomb. Rather, the media said, the small size of the debris indicates the aircraft broke up in flight. Other reports suggest the cabin crew received no warning of a possible ditching, having left their flip-up seats in the upright position. Some 50 bodies have been recovered so far.

“We will make no further comment since speculation undermines the investigation and upsets the families [of victims],” Airbus CEO Thomas Enders said on Saturday.
“The aviation community is still in shock and the families won’t be consoled by the excellent safety record of the A330.”