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Air France ordered new sensors

AIR France received replacement airspeed sensors for its Airbus 330s three days before the fatal crash of Flight 447, but the airline's chief executive said yesterday he was not convinced faulty monitors were the cause.

As storms hit the crash zone off Brazil, a French submarine searched the depths of the Atlantic Ocean for the black boxes that hold the best hope of finding out what did happen to the Airbus A330-200 that flew into heavy storms on May 31 with 228 people aboard.

Investigators are focusing on the possibility that external speed monitors - Pitot tubes - iced over and gave false readings to the plane's computers.

The plane's manufacturer Airbus encountered new problems yesterday when an Airbus 330-220 carrying 203 people made an emergency landing in Guam after an electrical problem sparked a small cockpit fire, Australia's Jetstar airline reported.

Airbus said it sent an advisory to airlines on June 8 analyzing the automatic messages transmitted by the doomed Air France jet. Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath said one of the messages showed a change of cabin pressure equal to an altitude change of about 550 meters per minute but it does not have enough information to interpret this yet.

Replacement monitors for jet models of the same type as the crashed plane arrived three days before the fatal accident, airline Chief Executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon said yesterday.

Air France ordered the replacements on April 27 after pilots noted a loss of airspeed data in flight on Airbus A330 and A340 models, he said.

The incidents were "not catastrophic" and planes with the old Pitots are considered airworthy, Gourgeon said.

Brazilian teams said they might end the hunt for floating bodies and wreckage next week after finding no bodies on Wednesday. A total of 41 bodies had been recovered.


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