The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered that the 43 Airbus A330 aircraft in the US fleet have their Thales SA airspeed indicators (pitot tubes) replaced with those made by Goodrich. This follows a similar directive by the European Safety Agency in July.
Problems related to the pitot tubes are suspected in the crash of Air France 447 on 1 June 2009.
The FAA was quoted in a Bloomberg news report as saying:
"We have reviewed the numerous airspeed anomalies recently reported. We have determined that an unsafe condition exists."
Delta Air Lines Inc.’s Northwest unit and US Airways Group Inc. are the only US carriers that operate A330s according to the FAA.
In a related story yesterday in the London Times, Air France pilots union (Union of Air France Pilots (SPAF)) is accusing France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA) along with Air France of a cover up in the investigation of the crash of AF447.
The Air France pilots union believe that the investigation is heading towards blaming the pilots for the crash, and that the result is driven by political reasons to protect the reputations of both Air France and Airbus.
The Times story states that AIr France
"has ordered special training for all flight crew that operate Airbus aircraft, to teach them to manage a high-altitude system failure of the kind experienced by the crew of flight AF447."
This training is being seen by the pilots union as indicating that Air France management is laying the groundwork that the pilots of AF 447 didn't follow proper procedures.
In July, the BEA said that the speed sensors were "a factor, but not the cause" of the crash.
As described by the Times story,
"On Monday, Paul-Louis Arslanian, the head of the BEA, blamed the crew. He said that flight crew had for decades been taught to manage faulty airspeed readings. In the case of the Air France aircraft, 'certain of these fluctuations in speed [data] were perhaps not sufficiently taken into account in the training of the pilots', he said."
The BEA, however, does not expect to reach a conclusion for 18 months.
The search for the AF447 is still looking for the plane's black boxes.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.