Airbus, the heated rival of Boeing for dominance of the commercial airliner market, is facing a serious question. Un—named American Airlines pilots are complaining about the performance of one of its early models, raising issues about its airplane—building prowess. The New York Daily News reports:
Several New York—based American Airlines pilots said they are convinced that uncommanded rudder movements — an occurrence they say happens with some A300 aircraft by manufacturer Airbus, is partly to blame for the November 2001 crash over the Rockaways. [AA #357 — ed.]
"We're just trying to renew the interest and concerns about these particular model aircraft," said Capt. Bob Tamburini, a member of the Allied Pilots Association, the American Airlines pilots union. "We are requesting that the National Transportation Safety Board reopen its investigation based on the information that came out as of late."
Last month, a Canadian Air Transat A310, with similar tail designs as the A300, had to return to a Cuban airport after much of its rudder came apart, Tamburini said.
In the crash of Flight 587, the plane's tail snapped off during takeoff from JFKAirport, and the jet slammed intoBelle Harbor, killing all 260 passengers and crew and five people on the ground. The plane had been bound for Santo Domingo.
The pilots believe the composite material used for A300 construction is fallible and is not adequately inspected. They are asking federal regulators to have airlines go beyond visual inspections and to use cutting—edge technologies to further examine aircraft parts for damage between flights.
"I always believed the crash of Flight 587 had to do with a combination of uncommanded rudder movements and structural integrity defects in the composite material, and that the NTSB drew its conclusion on incomplete evidence," said Jason Goldberg, a former A300 pilot who now flies 757 and 767 jets by aircraft maker Boeing.
Composites are used ever more extensively in each succeeding model of aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus. The latter, which has taken on the enormous challenge of engineering the A—380 mega—jumbo, must cope with unprecedented weights and stresses. Any hint of trouble handling tricky composite construction raises serious issues. The A—380's delivery has been delayed for reasons that have not been fully explained to the public.
Hat tip: Joe Crowley
Thomas Lifson 4 18 06