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Airlines wait for Airbus A330 directive after crash

Several airlines using Airbus A330-200 planes, the model that crashed in the Atlantic last week, said on Monday they would wait for a directive from plane maker Airbus before making any equipment changes.

The CEO of Gulf Air, Bjorn Naf, told Reuters he was seeking a meeting with Airbus during the annual International Air Transport Association (IATA) gathering in the Malaysian capital to get an update on the latest findings on the crash and its causes.

“If there's an official recommendation, of course we will (act), we do not compromise on safety,” Naf said in an interview.

Airbus had detected faulty speed readings on its A330 jets ahead of last week's crash of an Air France airliner, and had advised clients to replace a part, French air investigators said on Saturday.

“If Airbus puts out a directive we will respond,” said Akbar al-Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, which has 16 A330-200s.

“Last week's tragedy over the South Atlantic reminded us all that safety is a constant challenge,” said Giovanni Bisignani, director general and chief executive of IATA, in a speech to members and delegates in Kuala Lumpur.

Several airline executives at the meeting stressed that the Airbus A330-200 was a safe aircraft and they had no reason to investigate the speed sensors at this stage.

“This problem was raised in the media, we don't know if this is the problem,” said Fernando Pinto, chief executive of TAP-Air Portugal which has 12 of the planes, adding the airline “would be following all the reports from Airbus.”

Air France said at the weekend it was speeding up the replacement of speed sensors after first noticing icing problems in May 2008 and disclosed disagreements with Airbus on how to act on the speed sensor problems before the crash happened.

Investigators are considering the possibility that the speed sensors may have iced up, but say it is too early to single this out or pinpoint any possible cause with the meager clues so far.

Airbus sales chief John Leahy told a small group of reporters in Kuala Lumpur that its A330-200 aircraft was safe and was essential for the airline industry.

“It's the backbone of the industry,” he said. (Reuters)