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British Airways Returns A320 Jets To Service With PM-France-Crash

June 27, 1988

LONDON (AP) _ British Airways said today it is satisfied the A320 Airbus is safe and will return to service the two jets it withdrew after the crash of an Air France model of the plane on Sunday.

British Airways suspended service of its two A320 jets at midnight Sunday while waiting for information about the cause of the crash near the Swiss- French border which killed three people.

Following discussions with Airbus Industrie, the plane’s manufacturer, and Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority, British Airways said it will on Tuesday resume its A320 service between London’s Gatwick Airport and various European destinations.

″We are satisfied with the safety and operating integrity of the aircraft,″ said an airline spokesman, speaking anonymously in keeping with British custom.

Michael Hennell, a professor of computational mathematics at Liverpool University, said he has been warning authorities since last year about flaws in the A320, the first civilian airliner with a fully computerized flight- control system that performs many tasks previously done by pilots.

The system replaces the pilot’s control stick with a series of computers and miles of electronic cables. Instead of the pilot physically moving the stick to adjust the aircraft’s flaps, for example, computers are used to send an electronic signal to the flaps.

Airbus Industrie maintains the system permits safer, electronically controlled flight, but Hennell said it does not always allow the pilot to override the computer. Airbus is a four-nation consortium in which Britain has a large stake.

″The pilot has very little last say,″ Hennell said. ″It is the computer that really determines what is to happen and that is to avoid pilot error.

″Computers control almost every aspect of this aircraft. It is very hard to see what could have happened that couldn’t be laid at the door of one of the computers.″

Hennell has campaigned before Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority against licensing the A320.

Hennell said in a British Broadcasting Corp. TV interview: ″The basic problem as I see it is that we don’t have the technology to ensure that the computer programs are anything like correct. The technology of writing programs and designing computers of this complexity just is not adequate for this sort of task.″

But Capt. Paul Wilson, of the Guild of Air Pilots, told the BBC: ″I don’t believe the computer system is responsible for this accident.″

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