Airbus defends response to Air France crash

Airbus officials on Tuesday defended their response to the recent crash of an Air France Airbus jet and insisted their planes were safe as they forecast an upswing in the aviation sector next year.

Airbus President Thomas Enders, addressing a press conference at the Paris Air Show, also gave an upbeat assessment of Airbus prospects, pointing to an order backlog of 3 500 planes.

Enders rejected a reporter’s suggestion that the manufacturer had been “timid” and not sufficiently forthcoming with comment in the aftermath of the crash on June 1 of an Air France Airbus over the Atlantic, killing all 228 aboard.

“I don’t understand what you mean—why were we timid or shy. This is the standard procedure if an accident happens. You will find it with us and with other manufacturers.

“We do not speculate about the reasons for the accident.
The investigating authority is not Airbus. The investigating authority is the [French] BEA. We offer support but we do not speculate about the reasons. There is no possibility to know at this point why Air France 447 really came down.”

Crash investigators, however, have been looking at the possible malfunction of critical speed sensors on the aircraft.

Air France has now replaced all the air-speed monitors on its long-haul A330 and A340 passenger planes in the wake of the crash, according to a pilots’ union.

Airbus chief operating officer Francois Bregier, appearing at the same press conference, asserted that “all our aircraft are safe”.

He said: “And our track record is the best evidence.”

“Don’t be trapped by the fact that when there is such an emotional crash we tend to say that these aircraft are not safe. Look at the track record, look at the number of flights. Look at the comparisons with other transport means. We have drastically improved the safety of our aircraft, including the human factors as well.”

While this year’s air show is taking place in a morose climate for recession-hit global aviation sector, facing huge financial losses in the face of crumbling demand and rising oil prices, Enders said Airbus was in “relatively good shape”.

“What counts for our financial health is not new orders,” he said.

“It is turning our backlog into deliveries. That’s why we’re putting our emphasis on deliveries, deliveries, deliveries.”

He said Airbus hopes to supply clients with 483 planes this year, roughly the same number as in 2008.

The consortium, backed by France, Germany, Britain and Spain, has so far this year received only 35 orders, including one for 24 A320s by Qatar Airways announced here on Monday.

The company sees the possibility of netting 300 orders in 2009 but has warned the figure could be considerably lower.—AFP

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