AF447: report out, surprise from Airbus, Air France defensive

Following this afternoon’s press conference there has been a flurry of developments in the last hour. The first, which is a surprise, is that Airbus has just announced that it is going to study the possibility of realtime datalinking of flight data recorder information to the ground in future.

That’s a concept that has got a lot of airtime since the A330 crash butthere are practical and cost arguments against it. However, satcoms arebecoming cheaper and it’s no longer out of the question. Whether it’sworth it is a debatable point. These guys in Canada have been energetically promoting the idea. And my colleague David Learmount wrote about it here.Personally I suspect we might see it being used on oceanic routesbecause of the recovery issues thrown up by AF447 but I doubt it couldbe justified over land. Full text of the press release below.

Second development this evening is a press release from Air Francewhich says two things: first that the black boxes must be found at allcosts, and second that, once again, the airline considers that itwasn’t at fault over the pitot tube issue and in fact acted to fix itdespite a) nobody suggesting that replacment tubes would cure the icingproblem and b) they didn’t have to. Again full text below.

Finally, the French BEA have frankly irritatingly just now released the actual report which runs to 128 pages in French. Update: apologies – it’s also in English, or it is now anyway.

Airbus press release

Airbus launches initiative toreinforce flight data recovery capability

Airbus to involve all stakeholders


Airbus haslaunched a study for reinforcing flight data recovery, including, but notlimited to, extended data transmission for commercial airliners, so that in theevent of accidents, critical flight information can still be recovered andreleased to the investigating authorities.


TomEnders, President and CEO of Airbus commented: “Gathering information from accidentsis vitally important to further improve the safety of flying. Various technicalmeans for reinforcing flight data recovery and data transmission to groundcentres are principally available. We will now study different options forviable commercial solutions, including those where our experience withreal-time data transmission from our own test aircraft could support thefurther development of such solutions.”


The studywill be conducted by Patrick Gavin, Head of Airbus Engineering, and CharlesChampion, Head of Customer Services, and will need to address technologicalissues as well as data protection and privacy concerns. Airbus will includeindustrial partners, research institutions, and international airworthiness andinvestigation authorities in this study.


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Air France press release

AF447: Progress Report from the French Air Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA)




Air France has taken careful note ofthe progress report published by the French Air Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA)concerning the AF 447 accident. In presenting the initial facts, this report constitutesan important stage in the inquiry.


It is also a very important step for therelatives of the victims, who, like Air France, are impatient to understandthe circumstances surrounding this tragedy.


It is, of course, of capital importancefor Air Franceto find the flight and voice recorders – “black boxes” – which would enable theinvestigators to analyse the causes of the accident, whatever these may be. Noeffort must be spared in achieving this end, and Air France thanks the French Authoritiesfor continuing their sea search with unprecedented resources. Air Francewould also like to thank the Brazilian authorities for the searches they havecarried out at the scene of the accident.


All the elements of the investigationproduced by the French Air Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA) will be fullyand immediately taken into account by the airline. Flight safety is of primeconcern to Air France,as can be seen from the ongoing efforts of every sector of the airline usingall its resources to improve it even further.


Following the publication of the progressreport, Air Francewishes to point out that:


-         In Airbus’ recommendation of November2008, superseding that of September 2007, the replacement of the Thalès AA Pitotprobes by Thalès BA Pitot probes was no longer put forward as a solution to theicing problems.

-         On 15 April 2009, Airbus recommended evaluating in realoperating conditions the results of a series of laboratory tests on the ThalèsBA Pitot probes.

-         On 27 April 2009, rather than waiting forthe results of this evaluation, Air France decided to equip its entire fleet ofAirbus A330s and A340s with the Thalès BA Pitot probes.


Air France is, of course, continuing tocooperate fully with the Authorities, and reiterates its commitment to totaltransparency with regard to the investigators, its passengers and the generalpublic.

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2 Responses to AF447: report out, surprise from Airbus, Air France defensive

  1. John Macilree July 3, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    The full BEA Interim Report is available in English at

  2. Taras July 18, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    Tail of Airbus made out of composite material, means plastic. It is not durable as aluminum, simple crack may cause it to broke off. It happen once before in New York. Air France try to hide it now, they occupy all families of victims with their lawyers (, means families will get nothing and no investigation will be made other then Air France one. It’s sad that other people now in great danger of flying those airplanes from Airbus.

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