French probe raises no urgent A330 safety concerns

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Preliminary readings of black box data recovered from a French Airbus plane that crashed in the Atlantic have eased any immediate concerns over the safety of A330 aircraft, but investigators warned against rushing to blame crew for the 2009 disaster.

French investigators are poring over data and cockpit voice recordings from two black boxes hauled up from the seabed after an agonising two-year wait, and are under pressure to solve the mysterious loss of an Air France jet that killed 228 people.

In the first tangible indication of where investigations may be leading, Airbus told airlines today that it had no new safety recommendations as a result of officials’ first glimpse of the black box data, sources familiar with the matter said.

Although not released to the public, such industry-wide messages are seen as significant because they can only be issued with the approval of official crash investigators.

Any obvious defect would automatically lead to some form of recommendation to avoid risking passenger safety on the rest of the 1,000 or so A330 aircraft in service across the world.
“At this stage of the preliminary analysis of the DFDR (digital flight data recorder), Airbus has no immediate recommendation to raise to operators,” the European planemaker said in an industry bulletin obtained by Reuters.

Airbus declined to comment.

France’s BEA crash investigation authority warned earlier it was too early to jump to conclusions about what triggered the crash, but said it was confident that the cause of the disaster would ultimately be found.

Specifically, the investigation team has yet to synchronise readings from the data recorder with voice recordings taken from the cockpit, a crucial process expected to take several weeks.

It reacted angrily to a French report that pointed the finger directly at Air France (AIRF.PA) or its crew, calling it “sensationalist” and premature.

Citing French government sources and people close to the investigation, Le Figaro reported that experts had singled out crew error but had not determined whether any mistake resulted from their decisions or Air France’s own procedures.

The outcome of the investigation has potentially significant legal implications for both the plane manufacturer and airline.



Investigators have repeatedly warned against trying to read too much into individual scraps of information, including inconsistent readings from aircraft speed sensors which dominated an earlier part of the investigation.