420_airbusIt was the second time that an A380 was forced to turn around in mid-flight.

An Air France A380 was forced to turn around and land in New York on Friday after problems with its navigation system, only days after the airline began flying the superjumbo across the Atlantic.

The double-decker Airbus made a U-turn 90 minutes after takeoff from New York and landed safely at Kennedy Airport in the early hours on Saturday, an Air France spokesman told AFP on Monday.

“The plane is new and is still getting into its stride. It was a minor computer problem that made navigation a little imprecise,” he said.

The plane was carrying about 530 people on the New York to Paris flight when it was forced to change its flight plan. Following repairs in New York, it took off again three hours later.

It was the second time that an A380, the world’s largest passenger plane, was forced to turn around in mid-flight.

A Singapore Airlines superjumbo returned to Paris on September 27 after one of its four engines failed during a routine flight to Singapore.

The Air France spokesman described last week’s problem as a “minor” glitch, and said the airline had taken immediate steps to respond to the defect.

“It was a minor glitch, but we do apply a principle of absolute caution and as soon as there is the slightest concern, we come back, we fix it and the plane takes off again,” he said.

“It was a problem with the in-flight computer but it did not at all affect air speed,” he added.

European planemaker Airbus has come under scrutiny since an A330 passenger plane crashed in the Atlantic in June, killing all 228 people on board.

Investigators found the plane’s air speed sensors were defective, but that the Air France crash was caused solely by the faulty monitors.

The giant plane made its maiden flight for Air France 10 days ago, taking off from Paris en route to New York with 538 passengers on board.

Air France is the first European airline to use the superjumbo, but it made its first test flight in April 2005 and has been in service for paying customers of Singapore Airlines since October 2007.

The superjumbo can carry 525 people in the standard three-class layout and up to 853 with all-economy seating.

Gulf-based Emirates airlines and Australia’s Qantas are also flying the A380, which has enjoyed some commercial success despite initial production delays.

Singapore Airlines has ordered 19 A380s in all, and plans to have 11 carriers in service by March 2010. Air France is planning to fly 12 superjumbos, with three others to be delivered by June.

Air France plans to begin superjumbo flights to Johannesburg and Tokyo in the coming months.

AFP