Investigators began listening Monday to a recording of the last moments of a demonstration flight of a new Airbus A320 jetliner that crashed at an airshow, killing three passengers and injuring 50 others.
A spokesman for Airbus Industries, the aircraft's manufacturer, said there were indications that human error caused the crash Sunday of the Air France jet, which was carrying 133 people, but the president of the airline's pilots union said its engines may have failed to restart at the pilot's command.Transport Minister Louis Mermaz said "nothing for the moment calls into question either the functioning of the aircraft or the big Airbus project. We will have to wait for the findings of the inquiry . . . to know the cause of the accident."
The narrow-bodied Airbus A320, developed by a European consortium over four years at a cost of $2 billion, is the new entry in the commercial aircraft market and a jet advertised as the fastest-selling plane in aircraft history. It went into service in April. America's Northwest Airlines alone has on order up to 100 Airbus A320 jetliners, at a cost of $3.2 billion. Pan American World Airways has ordered 16 A320s, with an option to buy 34 more. In addition, two U.S. leasing companies have ordered the A320. GATX Air has ordered 10 and International Lease Finance Corp. has three on order.
The Air France twin-engine plane clipped some trees and plunged from about 60 feet into a forest at the end of the airfield in front of TV cameras and a crowd of about 1,000 people attending the show. The aircraft burned and sent a pillar of black smoke in the air.
Only the plane's red, white and blue tail remained unscorched.
A control tower official said the jet appeared to lose power as it passed over the field in Habsheim, a village about 15 miles from the Swiss border.
Christian Roger, the pilots union president, said there were indications that "the engines failed to restart" at the pilot's command.