7 Jun 2009

Air France to replace speed sensors

4:45 pm on 7 June 2009

Air France says it will step up the process of replacing speed monitors on Airbus planes following the disappearance of a jet with 228 people on board over the Atlantic last week.

It said it had noticed problems arising from icing on the monitors last year and had begun changing them in April.

There has been speculation that faulty data on the old-type sensors may have caused the crash of the Rio de Janeiro-Paris flight.

Brazil says two male bodies from the missing plane have been recovered.

Items, including a case with a ticket for the flight and a backpack containing a computer - were also picked up on Saturday - some 800km north-east of Brazil's Fernando de Noronha islands where the AF Flight 447 disappeared in turbulent weather.

A blue seat was also found, and Air France is checking the serial number to see whether it came from the flight.

Investigators' warning

Investigators say that sensors on board the missing Airbus 330 were providing "inconsistent data" in the minutes before it went missing.

On Saturday, Air France said that in May 2008 it had begun noticing "incidents of loss of airspeed information during cruise flight" on its A330s and A340s jets.

The airline said it then contacted Airbus, who sent a recommendation to replace the monitors.

However, Air France stressed that the manufacturers had not made this a safety requirement.

The statement said that "without prejudging a link with the causes of the accident, Air France has accelerated this [replacement] programme".

It added that this did not necessarily mean the aircraft was not safe to fly.

French investigators also warned against drawing early conclusions.

The Airbus A330 jet went missing over the Atlantic on 1 June en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris with 228 people on board.

Air searches have been concentrating on a section of the Atlantic about 1100km northeast of Brazil.

Investigators earlier said the plane transmitted 24 automatic error messages in its final moments as its systems, including the autopilot, shut down.