Airbus CEO Defends A330 as Safest Ever Built

Speculation that Airbus may have to ground its entire fleet of A330 aircraft due to safety fears is completely unfounded and the plane is among the world’s safest, Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus, told CNBC.

According to French newspaper Le Figaro, Airbus would be prepared to stop its fleet of A330 and A340 from flying if its research department identified serious safety concerns.

“This story has absolutely no substance. The 330 is one of the safest commercial airlines ever,” Enders told CNBC.

“The aircraft is airworthy, is safe to operate and there is nothing else to add at this point,” he said.

The impact of grounding the fleet of about 1,000 planes would be a huge blow for Airbus and its parent company EADS, at a bleak time for the airline sector.

The aircraft maker's engineers and safety experts in Toulouse are working day and night to understand what caused the tragic loss of an Air France A330 plane which crashed on June 1 over the Atlantic, killing 228 victims, Le Figaro wrote earlier this week.

- Watch the full interview with Tom Enders above.

"Our engineers rationalize in terms of probabilities. If the research bureau detects anything that could endanger flights in the A330 or A340, Airbus will take the initiative to ask that these aircraft no longer fly," sources in Toulouse told Le Figaro.

If such a decision is taken, Airbus should then send a note to the European Aviation Safety Agency, which has authority to decide on grounding aircrafts in the European Union, Le Figaro wrote.

Investigations into the June 1 crash included the possibility that external speed monitors — called Pitot tubes —gave dangerously false readings. Earlier this week, the Air France pilots union advised pilots not to fly A330 and A340 planes unless they had been modified.

Air France Airbus A330-200 jet in flight
Air France Airbus A330-200 jet in flight

The problems come at a bad time for the airline and aviation industries, with air travel taking a double hit from the prolonged recession and fears of the swine flu virus, after the World Health Organization declared a pandemic of H1N1 influenza.

This year's Paris Air Show looks set to be a subdued affair as the industry struggles to deal with the economic slowdown.

“Yes we’re fighting for survival, but aviation is a very optimistic industry. We are absolutely sure we will prevail, we will survive even after the recession,” Enders said.

Enders also defended the environmental impact of Airbus by highlighting the increasing fuel efficiency of its planes.

“The two go hand in hand, efficiency and environmental friendliness, and that is what we want to pursue further,” he said.