Peru and Singapore Too

March 11, 2002 - FAA to Order New Airbus Inspections


The Federal Aviation Administration plans to order new inspections of Airbus A300-600 tails after finding that one was damaged on a plane swaying up and down and from side to side, a spokeswoman said Monday. FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette said the agency will order ultrasound inspections of the tails of those Airbus planes that either hit turbulence or which have had sharp rudder movements. Following the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 soon after takeoff from Kennedy Airport in New York in November, the FAA ordered airlines to visually inspect the Airbus A300-600 tails, which are made of a nonmetallic composite material. The airlines said no damage was found. Some pilots at American Airlines, the only U.S. passenger airline that flies the A300-600, had asked for ultrasound inspections of the tail, saying a visual check might not turn up any damage. Airbus Industrie, the manufacturer, has said tests show that any unseen damage cannot weaken the tail. ``This is what we were looking for at the outset,'' said Todd Wissing, an American pilot who flies the A300-600. ``After such a catastrophic accident with a tail made of composites, we need a sophisticated inspection.'' American issued a statement Monday supporting the FAA action. The airline said there was no need to inspect planes that have not hit turbulence or had sharp rudder movements, based on ``all data and investigative evidence to date.'' American flies 34 A300-600s, less than 4 percent of its fleet. FedEx and United Parcel Service are the other U.S. carriers that fly A300-600 jets. The National Transportation Safety Board, in its examination of the tail of American Flight 903 as it approached West Palm Beach's airport said damage was found that was not detected when the plane was inspected following a May 1997 incident that injured two people. Pilots had used the rudder to try to steady a plane veering up and down and from side to side for about 34 seconds as it approached the south Florida airport. One passenger was seriously injured and one flight attendant received minor injuries. The safety board said the pilots failed to maintain an adequate speed. The NTSB originally began looking at the plane because investigators felt it might have had stresses similar to those experienced by Flight 587 shortly after it took off from Kennedy Airport. The Nov. 12 crash killed all 260 people on board the plane and five on the ground. Board investigators decided to re-examine the 1997 incident as they discovered that moving a plane's rudder in one direction, followed by a sharp movement in the other direction, could break off the tail fin. The NTSB issued such a warning earlier last month. Pilots have reported several instances where they say Airbus A300-600 rudders moved on their own. In November 2001, an American A300-600 returned to Lima, Peru, shortly after takeoff after the pilot reported the plane fishtailing from side to side, according to NTSB records. And in May 1999, an American Airbus, traveling from Bogota, Colombia, landed safely at Miami International Airport after the rudder caused the plane to veer from side to side while approaching the runway, NTSB records show.

  Flt 903 incident Report

Singapore A340 Upset

The Safety Board is interested in another upset event last year involving an Airbus aircraft. On November 25, 2001, a Singapore Airlines A340-300 departed Singapore for a scheduled flight to Dhaka, with 96 persons aboard. Shortly after takeoff, the pilots noticed a problem with airspeed indicators. Among other things, there were overspeed warnings and large rudder movements without pilot input. The aircraft returned to Singapore and made a safe landing; there were no injuries. Inspection subsequently found problems with the pitot and static connections to the air data computers, which may have been introduced during recent maintenance. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore is investigating the incident.(12 Apr 02 - NTSB) 1997 Airbus Event Upon re-examination of the data from a 1997 event, the investigation team has determined that another American Airlines Airbus A300-600 (N90070) likely experienced high vertical stabilizer airloads. On May 12, 1997, American Airlines flight 903 was near West Palm Beach, Florida, when it entered a series of pitch, yaw, and roll maneuvers as the flight controls went through a period of oscillations for about 34 seconds, during which the aircraft dropped from 16,000 to 13,000 feet. The Safety Board determined that the probable causes of this incident were the flight crew's failure to maintain adequate airspeed during level-off, which led to an inadvertent stall, and their subsequent failure to use proper stall recovery techniques. (25 Feb 02 - NTSB Rel)