Urged not to fly

The Alter union, which represents about 12 per cent of pilots at France's national carrier, advised its members on Tuesday to stop flying Airbus A330/A340 aircraft until Air France replaces speed sensors on the aircraft.

Bruno Finatti, the head of Alter, said the sensors were "probably responsible so we are saying that Air France should err on the side of caution".

The finding of the plane's tail fin has narrowed the search for its black box recorders [AFP]
"What we've asked for is for the pilots who are flying those planes to make sure that the sensors have been changed."

Air France said over the weekend that it was speeding up the replacement of the speed sensors on all its Airbus long-haul planes, but did not give any timeframe for the change.

On its website, Alter advised pilots to "refuse any flight on an A330/A340 which have not modified at least two pitot sensors".

It is not clear, however, whether Air France pilots would heed the union's advice or whether this would have any effect on the company's operations.

Finatti said that despite its statements the union was "not trying to replace the official investigation which is going to take a long time".

The authorities believe all on board flight AF 447 were killed and the hunt continues for the plane's "black box" data recorders to determine what happened.

On Monday, a Brazilian crew recovered the plane's tail fin, considered a significant find because it could narrow the search for the flight data and voice recorders mounted in the rear section of the aircraft.