Air France chief: Early A330 findings are not conclusive

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Air France chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon has stressed that no firm connection has been established between last week's loss of an Airbus A330 and the pitot system of the jet.

Speaking during an event originally intended to focus on the state of the air transport industry, Gourgeon said that parties "cannot assume any link" between the pitot system and the cause of the accident.

He says Air France, which had experienced a number of incidents involving airspeed fluctuations, started replacing the pitot components on 29 May, as soon as it received the parts stock.

Gourgeon confirms that the replacement programme had been "stepped up" following the observation of speed measurement problems in ACARS messages transmitted automatically from the aircraft shortly before it crashed in the South Atlantic.

Air France also points out that European safety authorities maintain that the A330 and A340 are airworthy with "any one of the three types of existing sensors".

French pilots have raised concerns over operating unmodified aircraft since the loss of flight AF447 on 1 June.

Air France last year informed its flight crews of a "significant number of incidents" involving its A330/340 fleet during high-altitude cruise in conditions of icing or turbulence.

In a memorandum it detailed symptoms including incorrect indicated airspeed, discrepancies between the airspeed on primary displays and standby instruments, electronic messages, autothrust or autopilot disengagement, and stall warnings.

Crews were told that, during the incidents, there was no reported evidence of overspeed or stall indications, despite the warnings. The carrier urged its pilots to be aware and to proceed with caution in similar circumstances.