Air France Speeds Airbus Pitot Replacements After Pilots Complain

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Air France has accelerated its effort to replace pitot tubes on its Airbus aircraft after members of one pilots union threatened to refuse to fly the unmodified airplanes, the New York Times reported on Tuesday. The airline had said over the weekend it would replace the sensors on all Airbus A330 and A340 airplanes over the next few weeks. But on Monday, Alter, a union representing about 12 percent of Air France pilots, posted a notice on its Web site urging its members to "refuse any flight on an A330/A340 which has not had at least two pitot sensors modified," according to the Times. SNPL-ALPA, which represents the largest share of Air France pilots, made no such suggestion, but union spokesman Eric Derivry told the Associated Press: "What we know is that other planes that have experienced incorrect airspeed indications have had the same pitots. And planes with the new pitot tubes have never had such problems."

A U.S. Navy ship and the French nuclear attack submarine Emeraude are both en route to the crash site of Air France Flight 447 to aid the search for the cockpit voice and flight data recorders. The Navy also flew two devices called Towed Pinger Locators to Brazil on Monday. The five-foot-long devices can detect the signals from emergency beacons from as deep as 20,000 feet. They will be towed behind French tugboats. Crews so far have recovered 28 bodies from the crash site. They have been flown via Blackhawk helicopter to Fernando de Noronha, an island 400 miles off the coast of Brazil, and later will be taken to the mainland in a C-130. Identification by fingerprints and dental records is expected to take some time. A total of 228 people died in the crash. On Monday, the airplane's vertical stabilizer was recovered, the largest piece of the aircraft that has been found so far. The piece showed no evident signs of fire or explosion.