Airbus issues safety notice as ANZ A320 crash probe continues

By Nicholas Ionides

Airbus has issued a reminder to operators of its aircraft to be especially careful to protect aerodynamic data sensors during maintenance and painting work, as investigations continue into the November crash of an Air New Zealand (ANZ) A320 that had been repainted only days earlier.

The manufacturer this week issued an Accident Information Telex to operators of its aircraft, reminding them that during maintenance or painting work they should comply with all procedures in aircraft maintenance manuals - with particular care to protect aerodynamic data sensors.

It also reiterates that check flights must be carried out with particular care, especially when aircraft are being operated at low speeds.

Airbus says in the bulletin - parts of which were published in New Zealand newspapers today - that it has been issued as a result of preliminary investigations into the November crash in France of an ANZ A320 that was being operated by Germany's XL Airways on a test flight.

It cautions that the intention of the reminder is not to prejudge the outcome of the ongoing investigation. However it comes just days after the head of the investigation revealed that flight data recorder readings showed the aircraft pitched up suddenly in the final moments of the flight before it stalled and crashed.

The aircraft was on a pre-delivery test flight on 27 November when it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea as it was coming in for a landing at Perpignan. It had been on lease by ANZ to Germany's XL Airways and ANZ was preparing to take it back, and it had been repainted in ANZ colours shortly before the accident. The crash killed all seven people on board including five New Zealanders.

ANZ says in a statement that it "welcomes a bulletin from Airbus this morning reminding airlines of maintenance and flight check requirements following the A320 accident in France". But it also cautions that "as Airbus themselves state, this information should not be taken as a pre-judgement of the outcome of the official investigations".

ANZ says the French Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses (BEA) has asked for specialists from the airline to return to France to assist with investigations.

It stresses that it already follows the two recommendations outlined in the Airbus bulletin to operators and has "not previously experienced any issues in relation to either of the requirements outlined".

It adds: "The bulletin from Airbus is a precautionary measure intended to remind operators of existing manufacturer recommendations. Safety is paramount and non negotiable for Air New Zealand and it is part of our normal operating procedures to always adhere to all manufacturer directives."

Copyright © 2009 Aviation News Release

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