Poor Maintenance, Risky Maneuver Cited
A French investigation into the 2008 crash of an
Air New Zealand jet that took the lives of seven during a test
flight says the accident was due to "poor maintenance issues" and
"the pilots undertaking a risky maneuverer," according to a story
published by international news agency, AFP.
In a statement Friday, Air New Zealand acknowledged the final
report from the Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses (BEA) into the
cause of the accident involving the A320 operated by XL Airways of
Germany off the coast of France in November 2008.
The A320 was under lease to XL Airways of Germany which was
undertaking a pre-acceptance flight to demonstrate the proper
functioning of the aircraft's systems before its return to Air New
Zealand. The Airbus A320 plunged into the Mediterranean Sea off
France's Canet-en-Roussillon on November 27, 2008, as it was
coming into land at Perpignan airport, in southern France. , during
a "low speed, low altitude test after a technical
Five New Zealanders and two Germans lost their lives in the
The report said accident was the result of several key
contributing factors including:
- This was the first flight of the aircraft following maintenance
at EAS, a maintenance facility based in Perpignan, France. During
the rinsing of the aircraft by EAS personnel, proper cleaning
procedures were not followed and the aircraft's angle of attack
sensors were left unprotected. Water penetrated two of the three
sensors, which later froze during the flight.
- The loss of control of the aircraft following the improvised
demonstration of the functioning of the angle of attack protections
during a low speed test, with the blockage of the angle of attack
sensors making it impossible for these protections to
- The German pilots were not aware of the blockage of the angle
of attack sensors. Speeds mentioned in the available program of
checks were not taken into account and consequently the
demonstration was not stopped before the aircraft stalled.
- Challenges faced by the German pilot following approval from
Perpignan Air Traffic Control (ATC) for the flight, with a separate
CRNA south-west controller (a regional ATC) then refusing
permission to perform the requested maneuvers, which led to the
pilots opting to adapt the program of checks and adding complexity
to the flight.
- The absence of a regulatory framework within the aviation
industry for check-flights in the areas of air traffic management
and aircraft operations. As a result, Air New Zealand, as is common
within the industry, bases its check-flight program on standards
developed by manufacturer Airbus.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Rob Fyfe said the airline
acknowledges the BEA's exhaustive investigation and welcomes the
opportunity to review the recommendations alongside Safety
Regulators to identify where operational improvements to
non-revenue flights can be made.
"The investigative process is designed to ensure the aviation
industry gets critical learning opportunities that will ultimately
further improve safety in one of the most cautious and risk-adverse
industries in the world.
"While this report will not change the fact seven families lost
dads, husbands, brothers and sons and we lost great colleagues, the
findings will benefit the entire aviation industry.
"Check-flights are completed every day by airlines across the
globe but as highlighted in the report there is no regulated
standard. We have been operating to the manufacturer's standard, in
accordance with industry practice and with approval of our own
NZCAA, but clearly a regulatory framework to create consistency and
further minimize the opportunity for a tragedy like this to happen
Fyfe said the BEA report illustrates that as is often the case
in accidents, multiple factors contributed to this tragedy.
"Clearly the German pilots expected to be able to do the low
speed test safely. The fact the angle of attack sensors were not
working meant the aircraft became impossible to control and the
situation was irrecoverable.
"The BEA investigators have laid out the facts as they see them
and this brings with it some closure. Air New Zealand supports its
safety recommendations and is now working closely with the wider
industry to discuss these in more detail."
Air New Zealand will be reviewing the report in detail through
Friday and is expected to make further comment.