Airbus to replace speed probes linked to Flight 447 disaster

Airbus to replace speed probes linked to Flight 447 disaster

European aviation-safety regulators have ordered carriers flying large Airbus aircraft to replace their pitot speed probes made by Thales with those made by Goodrich.

The move follows an investigation into Flight 447, which plunged into the Atlantic on a flight from Rio to Paris on June 1, with findings suggesting that faulty Thales sensors are likely to have contributed to the accident in which all 228 onboard were killed.

“The European Aviation Safety Agency plans to propose an airworthiness directive mandating that all A330 and A340 currently fitted with Thales pitot probes must be fitted with at least two Goodrich probes, allowing a maximum of one Thales to remain fitted to the aircraft,” said a statement by the Cologne, Germany-based agency.

The statement said the airworthiness directive would be issued within the next 14 days. It described the move as precautionary, based on pitot tube data the agency had analyzed in recent weeks.

The proposal also seeks to ban all uses of an earlier version of Thales speed probes – the same model that was installed on Air France Flight 447.

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The order will affect about 200 planes from a global fleet of around 1,000 long-haul Airbus jets. Around 70 per cent of airlines already use only Goodrich.

Crash investigators suspect Thales probes on Flight 447 iced over and sent faulty speed readings to the aircraft’s computer as it hit a turbulent thunderstorm.

Airlines had already started to replace the speed monitors used on the lost plane with a new-generation of Thales probes.

But this month an Airbus A320 jet equipped with the new model also malfunctioned, briefly leading to the loss of speed readings and forcing the pilot to fly manually. France’s national pilots’ union this week demanded versions built by Goodrich replace the Thales models.