BERLIN // The European Aviation Safety Agency has issued a safety warning for an air speed sensor used on Airbus A330 and A340 jets, and urged airlines to test the device. Experts have suggested the instruments, known as pitot tubes, may have contributed to the June crash of an Air France Airbus A330 that killed 228 people. The emergency directive, effective from today, said malfunctions have been reported in the pitot tubes. The Cologne-based agency said the problem may originate with manufacturer Goodrich Corp. and could cause an in-flight air leak that would cause incorrect pressure and airspeed readings. Goodrich is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. While the agency said the design was sound, it urged operators to test the devices - a relatively easy task that should not disrupt services, an agency official said.
"There has been a limited batch of Goodrich pitot tubes which had a quality issue," Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath said. "Through the serial numbers, the faulty pitot tubes are perfectly identified." He could not immediately say how many airlines or aircraft might be affected, but said the problem was "very limited." Investigators trying to determine why the Air France flight crashed in June have focused on the possibility that the pitot tubes iced over and gave false speed readings to the plane's computers as it ran into a turbulent thunderstorm. Modern jet airliners carry at least three of the L-shaped metal pitot tubes that jut from the forward fuselage.