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Delta, other carriers move to replace Airbus sensors

Published June 9, 2009 5:47 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As airlines tried Tuesday to distance themselves from instruments tied to those aboard last week's doomed Air France flight, Delta Air Lines said it has put new airspeed sensors on its Airbus A319 and A320 jets and will install the devices on its Airbus A330 fleet as soon as it gets them.

Delta's family of Airbus aircraft are flown by the carrier's Northwest Airlines unit. The Airbus A330-200 painted with Northwest colors is what Delta flies between Salt Lake City and Tokyo.

Northwest finished replacing the Pitot tube sensor on the last of its 319 and 320 planes Sunday, as recommended by Airbus. The carrier will install the sensors on the 330 once they are in hand, Delta spokesman Anthony Black said.

Added Delta's Betsy Talton, "Until these installations are complete, we are communicating with our flight crews to reiterate the correct procedures to be used in the event of unreliable airspeed indications."

Delta, the world's largest airline operator, owns 11 A330-200s and 21 A330-300s. It owns or leases 57 A319-100s and 69 A320-200s.

Several airlines flying the type of plane involved in the Air France crash said Tuesday they use a different brand of airspeed sensor than those aboard the doomed flight.

The Air France plane disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean while on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, killing 228 people on board.

Focus on the Pitot tubes intensified after Air France issued a statement last week saying it was in the process of replacing the instruments on the Airbus A330 model. The cause of Air France Flight 447's crash on May 31 remains unclear. But one theory is that the sensors became iced over and gave incorrect readings. That could have caused the plane to fly either too slow or too fast.

The sensors aboard the plane were made by France's Thales Group and had not yet been replaced. Thales spokeswoman Caroline Philips confirmed the company made the Pitot tubes on the jet that crashed. The defense and aerospace manufacturer did not provide details on the devices or say how many other planes use them.

Related developments

The Transportation Department says flights on U.S. airlines were on time more frequently in April than in March and also improved from a year earlier. Among major carriers, Northwest Airlines -- operated by Delta -- was on-time the most, and Continental Airlines posted the worst on-time record.

Federal officials said they will beef up inspection of pilot training programs at regional airlines in response to safety concerns raised by the crash of a regional airliner in New York in February.