Safety Checks Prescribed for Airbus A380

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The European Aviation Safety Agency ordered on Wednesday that all units of Airbus A380 must be checked for cracks in the wings.

A previous order indicated that the 20 oldest A380 must be subjected for a check-up. Now, the agency is expanding the order to include all units. The order does not mean that the A380 had been grounded. According to Dominique Fouda, a spokesman for the aviation agency. “They can fly, they just have to be checked within the time frame,” he said.

According to the order, planes that had registered more than 1,384 takeoffs and landings must be inspected within three weeks of February 13. For planes that had completed 1,216 to 1,383 flight cycles, they have six weeks to submit for inspection. Planes that have less than 1,216 flight cycles must be checked before they reach the 1,300 mark.

If cracks on the wing were found, the airlines must contact Airbus for instructions.

There is a total of 68 units of Airbus A380 flying today. Its primary users are the Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Air France, Qantas and Lufthansa. It made its maiden flight on 27 April 2005 and then entered the commercial market with Singapore Airlines in 2007.


Air France-KLM Finalizes 787 Deal


As Air France-KLM prepares to roll out the initial elements of a turnaround plan for Air France, the airline group confirms that it has closed its deal with Boeing for 25 787s, of which KLM will be the initial operator, starting in 2016. The airline group also has 25 787s on option.

Air France-KLM confirmed the airline group is the unidentified customer for 25 787-9s listed in Boeing’s order book when the airframer disclosed annual figures last week. Air France also will operate the 787, although at a yet-to-be-set date. An engine decision is pending.

Air France-KLM announced its intention to buy both the 787 and the Airbus A350 in September. An airline official says that talks are under way to finalize the firm order for 25 Airbus A350s. Those talks involve both Airbus and Rolls-Royce, the sole engine supplier.

The 787 order confirmation comes in what could be a pivotal week for Air France, with a board meeting likely on Thursday to set into motion the first elements of a turnaround plan under new CEO Alexandre de Juniac. The executive previously said the plan would involve a two-stage process, the first of which would focus on bolstering the existing cost-savings plan.

Decisions on a wider reorganization, aimed at reducing the airline’s debt level, boosting its short- and medium-haul performance and stepping up its overall competitiveness are not expected to emerge until June because of the need to coordinate with labor groups.

Boeing now holds 305 orders for the long-range 787-9 and 555 for the standard 787-8.

Pilot Error Caused Air France Flight 447 crash


The Air France A330 that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean two years ago apparently had its pilots distracted with faulty airspeed indicators and failed to properly deal with other vital systems, including adjusting engine thrust, according to people familiar with preliminary findings from the plane’s recorders.

The final moments inside the cockpit of the twin-engine Airbus A330, these people said, indicate the pilots seemingly were confused by alarms they received from various automated flight-control systems as the plane passed through some turbulence typical on the route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. They also faced unexpectedly heavy icing at 35,000 feet. Such icing is renowned for making airspeed-indicators and other external sensors unreliable.

Ultimately, despite the fact that primary cockpit displays functioned normally, the crew failed to follow standard procedures to maintain or increase thrust and keep the aircraft’s nose level, while trouble-shooting and waiting for the airspeed sensors and related functions to return to normal.

Slated to be disclosed by investigators on Friday, the sequence of events captured on the recorders is expected to highlight that the A330 jet slowed dangerously shortly after the autopilot disconnected. The pilots almost immediately faced the beginning of what became a series of automation failures or disconnects related to problems with the plane’s airspeed sensors, these people said.

The crew methodically tried to respond to the warnings but apparently had difficulty sorting out the warning messages, chimes and other cues while also keeping close track of essential displays showing engine power and aircraft trajectory.

The Air France pilots were never trained to handle precisely such an emergency, according to safety experts and a previous report by France’s Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses, which is heading up the investigation. All 228 people aboard Flight 447 died in the accident.

The senior captain, Marc Dubois, appears to have been on a routine rest break in the cabin when the fatal chain of events started, according to safety experts familiar with the details, but the cockpit-voice recorder suggests he may have rushed back to the cockpit to join the other two Flight 447 pilots.

Another team to search for lost Air France A330 plane

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A Franco-American team will make a fresh attempt to locate the wreckage of an Air France Airbus A330 that search teams have been unable to find in 18 months of extensive campaigns.

Thierry Mariani, the French deputy minister in charge of transportation, announced on Feb. 4 that Air France, Airbus and the government will back a new search to locate the A330 aircraft, AF447, which disappeared off the Brazilian coast between May 31 and June 1, 2009, without a trace. Like the last mission in May 2010, the new operation will rely solely on advanced unmanned automated systems (UAS), rather than surface-towed sonar, which dominated earlier searches, running back-and-forth patterns to ensure each area is observed at least twice.

However, unlike last year’s attempt, which focused on just part of the vast 17,000-sq.-km crash zone, based on ocean current models, the new mission will systematically investigate the entire zone, except for 6,000 sq. km already explored. Alain Bouillard, an official in France’s bureau of accident investigations, or BEA, who is leading the inquiry, said a follow-up study in June 2010 using dropped buoys had determined that the crash area is characterized by eddy currents, rendering modeling problematic.

To be managed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, which participated in the 2010 search, this year’s operation will employ three Remus 6000 UAS vehicles supported by a small expedition ship, the Alucia, based in Seattle. Two of the UAS vehicles are owned by the Waitt Foundation and the third by the German oceanographic institute Geomar. If the team is successful in identifying the wreckage field, a larger vessel still to be identified will be sent to retrieve the wreckage and the aircraft’s voice and data recorders.

BEA Director Jean-Paul Troadec says the UASs, equipped with camera and sonar, are the only means currently available capable of undertaking high-precision exploration of the sea floor at the 4,000-meter depths and rugged terrain where Flight AF447 went down, which despite a joint Franco-U.S. mission in 1974 remains largely uncharted. “Given the certainty of the aircraft’s last known position and ACARS data, transmitted 15 minutes before impact, we are sure the aircraft is in the part of the crash zone that we haven’t yet explored,” he says, “and we’re more confident than ever that our strategy will enable it to be found.”

David Gallo, director of special projects at Woods Hole and co-expedition leader, says exploration of the crash zone last year showed the Remus submarines are capable of running precision patterns in terrain with scarps of 90 degrees or more. And a high-precision mapping campaign of the Titanic site last August-September showed they can detect objects the size of a barrel or a chair at 600 meters, Gallo said.

The Alucia is scheduled to leave Seattle on Feb. 9 and arrive at Suape, Brazil, on March 14. It is slated to be on station to begin the search on March 18. The operation is to extend through July 8.

Air France and Airbus will foot the estimated €9.2 million ($12.5 million) cost of the search and the French government the retrieval effort.


U.S Navy Crew Joins Search For Air France

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A U.S. Navy aircrew joined the international search June 2 for survivors and debris from an Air France aircraft that went missing off the Brazilian coast, U.S. Southern Command officials announced.

A U.S. Navy P-3C Orion and its 21 crew members reported to Augusto Severo Airfield in Natal, Brazil, June 1 and joined search operations for Air France Flight 447, officials said.

The crew deployed from its forward operating location in Comalapa Air Base, El Salvador, where it was supporting regional illicit trafficking detection and reporting operations, officials said.

U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) dispatched the aircraft and crew after Brazilian officials accepted the command’s offer to assist with the search.

SOUTHCOM also directed a combat rescue officer from Joint Task Force-Bravo, located at Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras, to Recife, Brazil. There, he will help the Brazilian Rescue Coordination Center coordinate rescue assets, officials said.

Air traffic controllers lost contact with the Air France Airbus A330-200 aircraft during a severe lightning storm after takeoff from Rio de Janiero. The aircraft, bound for Paris, disappeared with 228 passengers aboard.

A Brazilian air force crew reported June 2 that they had spotted debris floating in the South Atlantic that could have come from the aircraft.

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