17 Sep 2010

Air NZ 'still unclear' why fatal manoeuvre performed

10:58 pm on 17 September 2010

Air New Zealand says it is no nearer to understanding why the pilots of its plane that crashed in France in 2008 performed a flight manoeuvre that proved fatal.

Five New Zealanders and the two German pilots were killed when the Airbus A320 crashed into the sea near Perpignan on a test flight off France's Mediterranean coast.

The final report from French air accident investigators issued on Friday highlights poor maintenance and pilot error.

The BEA says the pilots were not competent to carry out low-speed, low-altitude tests.

Air New Zealand's rules say tests should be performed between 10,000 and 14,000 feet, however the German pilot, without warning, initiated a test at about 4,000 feet.

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe believes the reason for the test was lost with those on board.

"They lost their life. And that says to us the standard that we thought was appropriate and in place and being adhered to around the globe was not the case. And the fact that we were or I was not able to keep these people safe is something that I will always carry as a burden.

Mr Fyfe says the accident highlights there is no clear regulation on such flights and while Air New Zealand was operating in line with industry standards, a regulatory framework would cut the chance of such a disaster happening again.

Mr Fyfe says the report's findings will bring some closure for the victim's families and colleagues, and they need to know air safety will improve so the deaths were not in vain.