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When did Air France know about faulty air-speed sensors?

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The latest wrinkle in the AF447 mystery is not the black box. French authorities say recent sounds picked up in the cavernous depths of the Atlantic are “false signals.”

The hunt for the black box – and the cause of the June 1 crash – continues.

But another Air France internal document has surfaced, which reinforces the theory that the problem was the air-speed sensors known as Pitot tubes.

In a detailed June 23 post (in French and English) on the European pilots association website, Eurocockpit (and in a story in the weekly Le Canard Enchaine in Paris today), Air France document NT 34-029 suggests that the Pitot tubes were known to have been faulty far earlier than August 2008.

August was the date offered last week by Air France CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon as the earliest instance of Pitot tube failure.

The NT 34-029 document recounts seven cases of faulty Pitot tubes prior to August 2008. Given an Airbus investigation into the Pitot tubes, the malfunctions may date back as far as a year or more before then. The cited problems include an Airbus owned by Air Tahiti, serviced by Air France, and six other cases on the Airbus 340 model aircraft.

On June 19, Mr. Gourgeon, in an interview with French radio RTL, stated, “For the A330 and A340, we’ve had no incident prior to August, 2008.”

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