Air France replace A330 parts–2 yrs late!

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  • Anonymous


    Good news if you choose to fly AF!
    They have replaced the Pitot tubes, the speed sensors that are thought to be responsible for the Disaster on the Rio A332/A340 a few weeks ago.

    As Airbus Advised them to do so only 2 years ago, which other airlines did, this is quite an achievement for AF! KLM changed theirs as did Singapore, within one month of the advice.
    Being completed in 10 days, just shows they chose not to, rather than were unable to!

    Most Fflyers i know are avoiding AF these days, as it reflects the running of the Company, maintainance, use of aircraft, attitude of Management etc. They appear to have the worst safety record in the EU when you compare in the last 7 years!

    At least now the aircraft they run are carrying the safety checks as advised by Airbus 2 years ago.
    It took such an incident to encourage them to do so…!


    Actually, thats not quite true. Airbus advised a need to change the pitot tubes, but did not tell the airlines which one to switch to. There are 3 different makes, and Airbus was due to run a test this summer on all 3 to determine which work best with the A330 airframe ( only took them 2 years to start a test to correct a problem they have been aware of for years ).

    Tom Otley

    We received notificaion of this upate from the AF corporate website yesterday.

    Interview with Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, Le Figaro, 9 July 2009

    Five weeks after flight AF447 was lost between Rio and Paris, Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, CEO of Air France, talks for the first time about the initial lessons which have been learned from the catastrophe.

    LE FIGARO – Since the accident, the wildest rumours have been circulating: there’s been talk of a recording you’re keeping secret, from the pilot of AF 447 telling the pilot of another aircraft about his concern. Other people have talked about your staff’s lack of action on receiving the Acars messages. What’s the real story?

    Pierre-Henri GOURGEON – Since the black boxes have not yet been found, we have very little information, so the field is wide open to all kinds of speculation. But what is certain is that there was no radio exchange between flight AF 447 and other aircraft in the vicinity. Air France pilots and those of other airlines have been quite definite about that. They are all the more certain about it because they were in a sector that is out of the scope of radar, where radio monitoring is mandatory.

    As for the system that automatically sends out maintenance messages, that is very modern equipment. The system is not mandatory, not all aircraft are equipped with it, but our long-haul aircraft are. No one receives the messages automatically emitted by the aircraft in real time. No one is supposed to. Those messages are intended to help prepare technical maintenance tasks when the plane arrives at Paris-Charles de Gaulle, so that everything will be ready for the next steps.

    Let’s go back to the actual sequence of events. Who, at Air France, received the 24 Acars messages that arrived within a space of 4 minutes at 4 in the morning that Monday Whitsun holiday?

    Our technician handled the messages from AF 447 – which was due to land at 11:15 am – just like all other messages from night flights (generally between 10 and 15 flights). Nothing at that time indicated the seriousness of the situation.

    But 24 messages – isn’t that a lot for one flight?

    Other aircraft that fly and land with no problems can emit even more messages than that.

    Yes, but at that hour, Dakar air traffic control, which should have made contact with the plane, was unable to.

    That’s true. And so a warning and search procedure was initiated between the different air traffic control centres. We were in a phase of uncertainty. But there again it didn’t necessarily mean there’d been an accident. It often happens that we lose contact with aircraft over Russia, Africa and the oceans and we regain contact later. Aircraft sometimes lose radio contact. Between 6:30 and 8:30 am, it was still too early for the plane to be picked up by the Madrid or Brest radars.

    When did someone make the connection between the disappearance of the aircraft and the Acars messages, particularly the one that mentioned the problem with the Pitot probes and icing?

    A little after 8:30. While they were searching for the aircraft, the Air France operations control centre was informed by maintenance that the Acars messages indicated a disparity in the speed readings, which might point to a problem of icing. That is not enough to explain the accident, but it may have been a factor. At that point, we became very concerned. Gilbert Rovetto, Senior Vice President for Operations, called me and informed me then that the control towers were confirming, one after the other, that they were not in contact with flight 447. That meant that it was very likely we had lost an aircraft.

    At what point did you realize the extent of the catastrophe?

    We decided to launch crisis operations at 9:50 am. Our crisis unit was opened at Charles de Gaulle airport, in a specially equipped room. Antoine Pussiau, Senior Vice President for the Caribbean and Indian Ocean network, and crisis manager on duty, took his place along with representatives of the company’s operational teams: flight operations, flight crews, physicians, maintenance, communications, etc. This crisis unit remained on duty around the clock for the first week and for 18 out of 24 hours every day of the second week. Our first priority was to organize the arrival of 60 to 70 relatives at Roissy. There were not more than this because many passengers were connecting passengers. At 12:15 pm, a military aircraft took off from Dakar to begin the initial search. At 1 pm, we set up a toll-free number. At 1:30, I held a press conference. At 2 pm, I went to speak with the families. In the days that followed, we contacted close to 2,000 people close to the victims, who were of 32 different nationalities.

    On precisely that subject, you have been reproached for having sometimes taken a long time to notify the families…

    These days, when you fill out a form, you note down your cellphone number. There is no more question about “whom to inform in case of an accident.” And of course, our passengers’ cellphones were with them. It’s difficult to find people. You do it by finding a date or birth, an outdated address on a passport. Sometimes, some members of the families were contacted by Air France, and others were not, and they complained. Sometimes we ran up against identical names. It was very complicated, and we were in a situation of real despair. It was abominable.

    Why didn’t you go immediately to Brazil?

    I didn’t go to Brazil immediately to be able to attend the memorial ceremony for the victims at Notre-Dame Cathedral. The next day, I was at Charles de Gaulle Airport for the gathering in memory of the twelve crew members and four other staff members who died on flight 447. It was very moving, there were 10,000 people there. There was absolute silence; it was a very difficult moment. Our mission was to bring our passengers home safely and we failed. Everyone in the Company was thinking: “This is not Air France.” It was a very emotional moment. As for Brazil, let me get back to that. In Brazil, the 30th day after the loss of a loved one is a very important day of mourning. I was there. The families I met there were very touched.

    What lesson have you learned from this catastrophe?

    Air France is a safe airline. It was safe yesterday, it’s safe today, and it will be even safer tomorrow. Because we’re going to examine every detail: mechanical factors, human factors, weather information. Every possible accident scenario is going to be explored. We’re going to look at everything and we will improve any element that might be related to the accident as well as others that are not. There is no contradiction between safety and economy. When you improve safety, you improve the image of the company and you logically improve its economic performance. There is never any arbitration between those two factors. For example, it’s written down in black and white that when there are storms, you go around them; there is no question of saving on fuel. Pilots are totally free to choose their route.

    Concretely, what measures are you going to take?

    We have decided to take another look at crew training, the quality of the weather information we have available, and updating of information through radio contact with the ground. Whenever there is an incident, and even more when there is an accident, feedback points up possible failures. Whether or not they have a link with the event, our duty is to correct them. The pilot on the flight from Sao Paulo to Paris, who entered the area shortly after AF 447, reported that he crossed a first turbulent area that had not been picked up by his radar and as a result, he avoided a much worse one by manually increasing the sensitivity of his radar. Flight 447 didn’t have the good fortune to encounter that first warning and may not have been able to avoid the second very active storm. On the strength of that report, we are going to review the way we use radar. Whether or not that was the cause of the loss of flight 447, we have to examine every factor and improve all of our procedures and rules. In air transport, limiting risks works like this: either something poses a terrible risk for the aircraft and it has to be eliminated by any means, or it poses a non-catastrophic risk and it has to be corrected.

    About the Pitot probes, why did you not explain earlier what you had done?

    It was said and written on June 6 in a statement. In September 2007, Airbus had issued technical notes which recommended, without being compulsory, replacing Thalès AA probes by BA probes. It was indicated that these new probes limited the intake of water by heavy rain at low altitude and reduced the risk of icing at high altitude. Air France made this change on the A320, which had experienced incidents of water ingestion. In the summer of 2008, we saw a rise in incidents related to the icing of probes on A340s and A330s. Air France asked Airbus for a solution. In response, the manufacturer indicated that the BA model, recommended on A320 was not designed to prevent icing incidents and its recommendation of September 2007 was amended accordingly in November 2008. At the beginning of 2009, laboratory tests showed however that the BA probe could provide improvements compared with the previous probe. On April 15 Airbus informed Air France of this and offered a flight test evaluation. Air France decided to change all the probes on its A330/340 fleet immediately. The program was launched on April 27. The new probes were supplied by the manufacturer in the weeks preceding the disappearance of AF 447. We must therefore understand that at the time of the accident, the probe changes were underway but that no official Airbus document required them to be replaced. The day after the accident, we thought that there had perhaps been an icing problem. An alternative method helped to accelerate the replacement programme. I made this decision. This decision was not taken under pressure from pilots’ unions, as has been said.

    These exchanges tend to prove that Air France has done its job but do not rule out the Pitot probes to explain the accident.

    It is up to the investigators to clarify the exact role of the probes into the accident.

    What have you really changed since the highly critical Colin report on aviation safety?

    I am proud of Colin report, given to all Air France crew members, which shows that at Air France there are no taboos on safety issues. In October 2005, we gave three Air France Flight Captain instructors with an analysis assignment on the organization and functioning of our air operations. Since then, the recommendations of this report have been implemented in all areas of our business: operational regulations, flight organization and safety, crew training, ground operations and maintenance.

    Do you think you will ever find the black boxes?

    For Air France, it is crucial to retrieve the flight recorders to understand what happened. The acoustic search for the black boxes will continue until 10 July by the nuclear submarine “Emeraude” with the use of highly sophisticated listening devices. After that date, the search will continue with submarine robots to locate the wreckage of the aircraft. All hope is not lost.

    Some media have reported massive resignations of Air France hostesses and stewards since 1 June.

    This is a particularly unworthy rumour when we consider the dedication of our cabin crews and their commitment to their airline. There have been no resignations of hostesses or stewards at Air France since the disaster. None at all.

    Interview conducted by Fabrice Amedeo and Christine Ducros.
    AF flight 447 Rio/Paris: How Air France is providing support to relatives and friends

    Flight AF 447 was carrying 228 passengers and crew of 32 different nationalities. The expectations of the many relatives and friends are varied. They are legitimately demanding information and transparency, even though the circumstances of this tragedy are slowing the progress of the investigation and Air France itself is unable to obtain all the necessary information, which is collected and centralized by the French and Brazilian authorities.

    Air France teams took action from the very beginning to meet the needs of the bereaved. Air France has done everything it can to assist relatives and friends and is also aware of the difficulties that can be met in certain cases.

    The following measures have been introduced:
    o A toll-free number was set up to handle calls 24/7. This toll-free number was available until all families had been contacted.
    o Those who wished were provided with accommodation at hotels in Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Rio, with Air France paying all expenses.
    o A telephone information centre is available for relatives. There are different phone numbers depending on the language spoken. The centre provides all necessary information, including legal details, insurance, medical and psychological support, etc. It takes care of their travel needs and accommodation. To date, there are one to ten contacts per passenger.
    o In addition to the information centre, a permanent group has been set up to ensure long-term assistance to relatives and friends. This group includes staff with the skills needed in all areas concerned.
    o In Brazil, a specific local structure has been set up. At all other Air France-KLM destinations worldwide, a special correspondent has been designated to ensure local contact.
    o The French State has asked the INAVEM (National Institute of Assistance to Victims) to assist families.
    o Procedures are underway to determine the victims’ heirs. Air France will apply international law and regulations.

    Air France’s crisis centre has a permanent pool of 4,000 volunteers to provide local assistance and family support, in addition to the operational measures. Finally, all Air France divisions are providing support in any way they can.
    How are Air France’s volunteers trained to assist relatives and friends of victims?

    Overall, 4,000 Air France staff members are part of the voluntary programme to help in case of a crisis.

    These volunteers have four main tasks: contact with relatives and friends, logistical assistance, back-up at airports and telephone assistance.

    This programme was launched in November 1998 by the Chairman of Air France.

    Air France offers these volunteers three one-day training modules:

    – Theory (explaining what it means to be a volunteer and the commitments involved etc.) and practical training with a psychiatrist,

    – Theoretical and practical courses to train leaders whose role is to lead a group of volunteers and liaise with the Air France crisis centre,

    – Training on how to handle telephone calls when the Air France toll-free number is available.

    Yesterday, as soon as the news of flight AF 447 was announced, around one hundred volunteers were contacted to provide back-up to Air France teams in Paris and Rio. Others will be taking over later.

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