French Judge May Decide on Air New Zealand Perpignan Crash, Stuff Says

A French judge investigating the fatal crash of an Air New Zealand Ltd. aircraft in the Mediterranean Sea in November 2008 may decide whether to bring criminal charges later today, the stuff.co.nz website reported, without saying where it got the information.

The airline can’t confirm the stuff.co.nz report, Mark Street, spokesman for the Auckland-based carrier said by telephone. Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Rob Fyfe yesterday attended a hearing in Perpignan, France, at which court-appointed experts presented their report on the accident, which left all 7 people on board dead, the carrier said in an e- mailed statement today.

“The report, which is confidential to parties to the proceeding, will be considered by the judge as he decides on the next steps required to complete his investigation,” the airline said in the statement.

The Airbus SAS A320 plane crashed into the Mediterranean Sea off the French coast during a test flight prior to it being returned to Air New Zealand after a two-year lease to XL Airways Germany. Four Air New Zealand personnel, two XL Airways pilots and an official from New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority were killed.

The aircraft had been conducting a low-speed check during its approach to Perpignan when the crew lost control, French investigators said in a preliminary report in February 2009. The report made no conclusions about the cause of the crash. The Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses hasn’t released its final report.

The French judicial investigation runs separately to the BEA accident investigation, and is overseen by a judge who may or may not decide to prosecute, Street of Air New Zealand said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tracy Withers in Wellington at twithers@bloomberg.net.

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