Airbus, BEA Deny Reaching Conclusions about Air France Flight 447

 - May 23, 2011, 11:40 AM
Recovery crews pull the remains of Flight 447’s avionics bay from the South Atlantic. (Photo: BEA)

Both Airbus and the French BEA (Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses) have denied reaching any conclusions about the June 1, 2009, crash of Air France Flight 447, following reports in the French media that Airbus advised its customers that investigators had found no technical faults with the accident aircraft, an A330-200 that crashed into the South Atlantic on June 1, 2009, implying human error.

“Airbus strongly disagrees with any form of speculation in the scope of the safety investigation and deplores all inappropriate communication concerning such a serious event that should be handled with professionalism and dignity,” the manufacturer said in a May 17 statement.

Soon after French accident investigators extracted the data from the memory cards inside Flight 447’s flight recorders, Airbus sent an accident information telex (AIT) to operators that, according to the company statement, contained no safety related recommendations. Airbus stressed that the BEA issued official approval to transmit the telex, apparently in reaction to the French authority’s insistence that it alone holds the right to communicate on the progress of the investigation. 

“Consequently, any information on the investigation that comes from another source is null and void, if it has not been validated by the BEA,” the bureau said in its own statement, issued a day after the French newspaper Le Figero reported that information extracted from the flight recorders would exonerate Airbus of any culpability in the crash. 

Although it now stresses that “at this stage of the investigation, no conclusions can be drawn,” the BEA had deemed as a contributing factor frozen-over pitot tubes, which, it suspected, could have led to faulty airspeed indications and the disengagement of the autopilot indicated by ACARS messages transmitted in flight.

BEA officials have now opened, extracted, cleaned and dried the memory cards from the flight recorders, and downloaded the information at the agency’s headquarters at Le Bourget, outside Paris. According to the BEA, the downloads gathered all of the data from the flight data recorder (FDR), as well as the entire recording of the last two hours of the flight from the cockpit voice recorder (CVR). An in-depth analysis of the data will take “several weeks,” it said, after which the agency plans to write a new interim report and publish it during the summer.