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Airbus Warns Pilots About Potentially Deadly Malfunction

Wed, 12/22/2010 - 3:30am

PARIS (AP) — Airbus has warned pilots about a dangerous potential malfunction of speed sensors on aircraft like the Air France A330 that crashed into the Atlantic last year, killing all 228 people aboard.

The European jet maker on Monday sent the warning over the sensors, called Pitot tubes, to the roughly 100 operators of its A330 and A340-200 and A340-300 long-range, widebody aircraft.

Airbus said Tuesday it has discovered in some cases two Pitot tubes can give matching, incorrect speed data, which could lead pilots to re-engage autopilot prematurely. Airbus spokesman Justin Dubon said the warning advises pilots not to re-engage automatic pilot following questionable readings from airspeed indicators until they have double-checked the readings.

Pitots are suspected of a role in the June 1, 2009, Rio-to-Paris crash that came during a strong thunderstorm over the Atlantic.

Search teams have failed to find the plane's "black box" voice and data recorders. Without those, investigators may never learn why the plane crashed in a remote part of the Atlantic Ocean, in depths of up to 4,000 meters (13,120 feet).

Automatic messages sent by the plane's computers just before it crashed show it was receiving false air speed readings from airplane sensors known as Pitot tubes. Investigators have insisted the crash was likely caused by a series of failures and not just the Pitot tubes.

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