Air France reviewing weather-radar use after AF447 crash: CEO

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Air France is reviewing crew training, use of weather radar and the availability of meteorological information for pilots following the loss of flight AF447 over the South Atlantic last month.

Chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon disclosed the measures a week after investigators divulged details about meteorological conditions at the time of the Airbus A330's disappearance, and the course deviations performed by other aircraft in the vicinity.

In a transcript published by the airline after he spoke to a French newspaper, Gourgeon said there was "never any arbitration" between safety and economy and highlighted operations during weather as an example.

"For example, it's written down in black and white that, when there are storms, you go around them," he says. "There is no question of saving on fuel. Pilots are totally free to choose their route."

One of the aspects of the investigation is the choice of flight track by AF447's crew. Investigators have stated that "several" other flights - ahead of, and trailing, AF447 at about the same altitude - altered course to avoid cloud masses.

These flights included another Air France A330 operating the AF459 service from Sao Paulo to Paris. Gourgeon says this crew crossed a turbulent area that had not been detected on weather radar and, as a result, increased the sensitivity - subsequently avoiding a "much worse" area of turbulence.

"Flight 447 didn't have the good fortune to encounter that first warning and may not have been able to avoid the second very active storm," adds Gourgeon.

France's Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses says the crew of AF459, which had been 37min behind AF447, detected echoes on the weather radar which "differed significantly" depending on the radar setting.

The crew initially chose to deviate 20nm to the west but the radar then showed an extensive squall line which led them to deviate to the east by 70-80nm.

"On the strength of that report, we are going to review the way we use radar," says Gourgeon. "Whether or not that was the cause of the loss of flight 447, we have to examine every factor and improve all of our procedures and rules."