Aero-Instruments starts pitot probe deliveries

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Air data sensor manufacturer Aero-Instruments has started deliveries of its pitot probes for installation on Airbus aircraft.

The Cleveland-based firm won parts manufacturer approval (PMA) on 4 August for the tubes after 18 months of testing and evaluation. The PMA approval means the probes meet or exceed an agreed upon certification plan, which included anti-icing requirements.

Aero-Instruments says in a statement that the 0851HL-AI pitot probe is available for installation on the more than 4,500 Airbus A318, A319, A320, A321, A330 and A340 series aircraft in operation worldwide.

While company vice president and general manager Ryan Mifsud told ATI earlier this month that Aero-Instruments did not have an Airbus customer, a company spokesman says that has changed.

Today Mifsud tells ATI that customer deliveries started on 27 August, declining to supply customer-specific information.

Pitot tubes measure the pressure of the incoming ram airstream and compare the reading to static air pressure measured elsewhere to derive airspeed. Airbus uses readings from three pitot tubes on the aircraft's nose to derive airspeed. The devices include a heating element that prevents the tube from freezing shut when moisture is present.

In the aftermath of a fatal Air France A330-200 crash in the South Atlantic on 1 June, European safety regulators have decided to require A330/A340 operators to replace Thales pitot probes. Based on automated maintenance data transmissions sent before the crash, investigators have determined that the aircraft's velocity measurements were in error, perhaps due to icing.

An expected directive from EASA will require operators to change at least two of the three Thales pitot tubes on aircraft with units manufactured by Goodrich. Older AA Thales pitot tubes would no longer be fitted and aircraft retaining a single Thales probe would feature the BA type. EASA has said its proposals were based on recent analysis of probe performance.

"All three [pitot tube] types comply with the applicable safety standards," it says. "The proposals are therefore intended as a precautionary measure."

Mifsud explains since Aero-Instruments is not a direct supplier to Airbus, its offerings will not be a part of the directive.