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Airbus investigated over Atlantic Air France plane crash

Preliminary charges have been levied against plane manufacturer Airbus in an investigation into the cause of the 2009 Atlantic Air France disaster.

As specialist prepare to launch a mini-submarine at the site where the Air France Airbus 330 plunged into the Atlantic during a storm, an investigation into the liability for the deaths of the 228 passengers and crew is now ongoing. Air France, whose representatives are due in court today, is also expected to be indicted.

Automatic messages sent by the aircraft’s computers showed it was getting false readings from its pitot tubes, sensors which are believed to have iced over. Investigators believe the pitot tubes may have been one of the reasons for the fatal crash, which scattered debris across the ocean.

Problems with the 330’s pitot tubes had first been identified by Airbus in 2002, although air safety authorities only gave orders for the tubes to be replaced across the worldwide fleet after the crash. Air France is being accused of not replacing the pitot tubes after becoming aware from reports they might be faulty.

Airbus CEO Thomas Enders considers the decision to investigate is premature, with lawyers for the company stating the preliminary charges ‘seem to relate to the procedural applications pilots must follow in cases of air speed indicator errors. The aircraft crashed during a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

The seabed investigation to try to locate the plane’s voice and data flight recorders is the fourth in an unsuccessful series of attempts to determine the true cause of the tragedy. The mini-submarine will trawl the ocean floor at a depth of 13,000 feet, with Airbus footing the bill. The third attempt last May ended in failure. So far, only three per cent of the aircraft has been recovered, along with 50 bodies.

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