Angry pilots say Air France crash inquiry shields Airbus

 

Paris

French air crash investigators were accused yesterday of "protecting" Airbus after it emerged that implicit criticism of the plane-maker was sliced from last week's report on the Rio-Paris disaster.

The largest Air France pilots' union withdrew from the official investigation saying it had turned into a "one-sided" prosecution of the crew of the Airbus A330 which plunged into the south Atlantic on 1 June 2009.

It was confirmed yesterday that the French air accident investigation agency, the Bureau d'enquêtes et d'analyses (BEA), had removed from its report at the last moment a "recommendation" that the "stall" warning on Airbus A330 aircraft should be improved or replaced.

It was reportedly known long before the crash that "stall" warnings on some jets could confuse cockpit crews by sounding when there was no problem.

Last Friday's interim BEA report pointed to the failure of the pilots to respond to repeated audio and visual warnings that their plane was about to "stall" – or lose sufficient "lift" to keep it in the air. The jet dived for three and a half minutes towards the ocean with "stall" warnings sounding, but the pilots made no mention of this fact in their tape-recorded conversations. All 228 passengers and crew were killed.

Air France, which is in a battle with Airbus to avoid the legal and financial consequences of the crash, claims that the pilots may have been confused, given previous experiences with faulty alarm warnings. According to one airline source, the stall alarm would sometimes sound while a message would appear on pilots' screens telling them to ignore the "superfluous" warning. Airbus says that it had received no "precise" reports of faults of this kind.

The BEA admitted yesterday that it had removed, at a late stage, a recommendation on stall alarms from its interim report. The change was made, it said, because it was felt that "further work was needed" on this part of the investigation. A recommendation on Airbus stall alarms would be issued in the near future, the BEA said.

Air France, pilots' unions and a support group for victims' families are indignant that an official report should have been issued last Friday including strong implicit criticism of the performance of the pilots but no mention of the faulty "stall alarms".

Entraide et Solidarité AF447, an association of French victims' families, has been protesting for weeks against what it sees as BEA's determination to pin the blame on the three dead pilots. The president of the association, Robert Soulas, said yesterday the belated cut in last week's report "definitively discredits the investigation".

"We have now the proof that the suggestions (that pilots were to blame) coming from the BEA were premature, biased... and skewed towards defending Airbus," he said.

Air France and Airbus have been placed under formal criminal investigation for the "manslaughter" of the passengers and crew of Flight AF447. The final BEA report is expected this autumn but the criminal investigation may continue for many more months.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?