Pilot error, poor maintenance blamed for fatal plane crash

Pilot error, poor maintenance blamed for fatal plane crash

Pilot error and poor maintenance were blamed for the crash of an Air New Zealand Airbus A320, which plunged into the sea off France during a check flight in November 2008, killing all seven on board, the airline said Friday, dpa reported.

A report into the cause of the accident was released by France's Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses (BEA) on Thursday.

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe said in a statement that multiple factors contributed to the crash of the plane, which had been leased to Germany's XL Airways and was on a test flight to show it was working properly before being returned to the airline.

Five New Zealanders and two German pilots, who were in control of the aircraft, died when the plane crashed into the Mediterranean Sea.

It was the plane's first flight following maintenance in Perpignan and the report said proper cleaning procedures had not been followed and water penetrated two sensors that froze during a low-speed test.

Fyfe said the report found the German pilots had opted "to adapt the programme of checks adding complexity to the flight" after a regional air traffic controller had refused permission to perform requested manoeuvres.

"Clearly the German pilots expected to be able to do the low-speed test safely," he said. "The fact the angle of attack sensors were not working meant the aircraft became impossible to control and the situation was irrecoverable."

He said the report highlighted the fact that although check- flights were completed every day by airlines across the globe, there was no regulated standard for them.

"We have been operating to the manufacturer's standard, in accordance with industry practice and with approval of our own New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, but clearly a regulatory framework to create consistency and further minimize the opportunity for a tragedy like this to happen is needed."

Fyfe said the report's findings would benefit the entire aviation industry.

"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."

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