Air New Zealand crash in France due to pilot error: experts | world | Hindustan Times
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Air New Zealand crash in France due to pilot error: experts

world Updated: Jun 29, 2010 23:13 IST

French prosecutors said on Tuesday they would not press charges against anyone over a 2008 Air New Zealand crash after they received an investigators' report that blamed pilot error.

The crew lost control of the Airbus A320 and crashed it -- killing all seven people on board -- as they tried to perform a low-speed test "in inappropriate conditions" off France's Mediterranean coast, the prosecutors said.

They cited a report by experts appointed by a court in Perpignan, near the site of the November 27, 2008 crash.

The expert report, drawn up for a a criminal investigation for manslaughter run by the prosecutor's office, essentially agrees with air safety investigators who in their ongoing parallel probe have blamed human error.

The air-accident investigation bureau (BEA) said in its interim report based on black box data recorder readings that the plane stalled during a low-speed, low-altitude test manoeuvre as it was coming in to land at Perpignan airport.

The BEA's final report into the accident is due to be delivered by the end of the year.

Five New Zealanders and two Germans were killed when the twin-engine plane they were testing plunged into the sea.

The plane had gone to France for tests and to be repainted in the colours of Air New Zealand before heading to Germany from where it was scheduled to leave for New Zealand.

The experts' report presented in Perpignan largely matched the conclusions of the BEA interim report.

It said the plane should have been flying at an altitude of 5,200 metres (14,000 feet) in order to carry out the manoeuvre that led to its crash but was instead at 600 metres, prosecutor Domnique Alzeari told reporters in Perpignan.

That was too low to recover from the stall, he said.

The report spoke of "an inappropriate test, in unsuitable conditions, with a manoeuvre carried out in an unprepared manner, which made it all the more perilous," said Alzeari.

He also said that faulty sensors essential for the plane's computerised flying system might also be partly to blame for the crash.

Two of the three sensors were not working and thus the excessive pitching "could not be corrected by the electronic brain of the aircraft," said the prosecutor.

He said the malfunctioning of the two monitors could be "linked to cleaning operations" on the plane the day before the crash but insisted that "the accident is not due to a maintenance or design problem of the aircraft."

There was speculation after the crash that one or more of the plane's sensors might have been painted over as the jet was repainted in Air New Zealand colours.

Alzeari said his office had no plans to indict anyone in the manslaughter investigation that had been opened in the wake of the crash.

He noted that families of the victims or other parties had three months in which to request alternative expert opinions on the causes of the crash.

An examining judge and lawyers for various parties involved will now study the experts' report and any further expert opinion that may be submitted.

Built in 2005, the plane had been leased to German charter firm XL Airways since 2006.

It had been undergoing servicing at EAS Industries in Perpignan and had been flying test circuits before it crashed.