Airbus Crashes: Yemenia, Air France, and Airbus Safety Issues
A Yemenia Air aircraft, Flight 626, Airbus A310-300, crashed on June 20, 2009, and plunged into the Indian Ocean with 153 people on board, marking the second major and deadly airbus incident in as little as one month. Questions are surfacing regarding the safety of and safety procedures surrounding the Airbus models involved, in particular Airbus A330, A310, A320, and A340.
“There are now more than 380 people dead on Airbus aircraft in one month,” said Doug McVitie, managing director of Arran Aerospace in Dinan, France. “It doesn’t do a manufacturer any good to have an association with problems at either end of the age spectrum of their aircraft.”
Yemenia Airways Flight 626 (June 20, 2009): According to Airbus itself, the Yemenia Airbus that crashed went into service 19 years ago, in 1990, though was not operated by Yemenia until 1999. The Airbus A310 had been involved in eight accidents since going into service in 1983, killing a total 673 people.
An Airbus statement said the plane, an Airbus 310 which carries 220 passengers, went into service 19 years ago, in 1990, and had accumulated 51,900 flight hours. It has been operated by Yemenia (Yemen Airways) since 1999.
The A310 has been in service since 1983 and was part of the Franco-German planemaker's first range of aircraft, however, the model stopped being made in July 2007.
According to Aviation Safety, a specialised web side, there had been eight accidents involving the A310 since 1983 and 673 victims.
According to the Telegraph, problems with the Airbus A310 were indicated by air transport authorities in 2007, nearly two years ago. French transport minister Dominique Bussereau stated that the airbus did not returned to France after its faults were discovered, instead continuing to fly with Yemenia Airways.
"The company was not on the black list but was subject to stricter checks on our part, and was due to be interviewed shortly by the European Union's safety committee," he said.
Air France Flight 447 (June 1, 2009): Air France Flight 447 disappeared and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009. In the following weeks of investigation and speculation, a probable explanation emerged that the plane's pitot tubes had iced over when the plane flew into a storm. Pitot tubes, or anemometric sensors, were a key component of speed monitoring on the Airbus A330 model that crashed.
It was discovered that Air France and other airlines had been advised for over a year to replace the pitot tubes on their planes, which continually gave inaccurate speed readings, one of which it is thought to have contributed to the speculated stalling and crash of Flight 447.
All the indications are that the calamity was influenced - if not entirely caused - by a malfunction of the three tiny tubes in the nose of the plane which measured its speed.
Air France voiced its concerns to Airbus months ago about the reliability in icy conditions of the model of speed sensors, or "Pitot tubes", fitted to the A330-200 which crashed 400 miles north-east of Brazil.
Air New Zealand Airbus A320 (November 27, 2008): Air New Zealand Airbus A320 crashed in a test flight off the coast of France near the city Perpignan, killing all seven passengers onboard. Operated by XL Airways Germany at the end of a two-year lease, the aircraft broke apart and its debris was spread throughout several hundred metres of the Mediterranean ocean.
A subsequent report investigating the incident suggested the crash was due to pilot error and the crew losing control of the aircraft, after stall warnings were activated and deactivated repeatedly.
At 15 h 45 min 58 s, the slat and flap controls selector was placed in position 1, then 0 two seconds later. The Captain made inputs on the flight controls and the thrust levers.
At 15 h 46 min 00 s, the stall warning stopped.
At 15 h 46 min 06.8 s, the last recorded values were a pitch of 14° nose down, a bank angle of 15° to the right, a speed of 263 kt and an altitude of 340 ft. Less than a second later, the airplane crashed into the sea.
Sudan Airways Airbus A310 (June 10, 2008): A Sudan Airways aircraft burst into flames and killed at least 100 of the 217 passengers onboard upon landing. The Airbus A310 had tried to land at Khartoum airport but was turned away, then flew to Port Sudan before returning to Khartoum again.
Reports of the accident cited a dust storm in Khartoum restricting pilot visibility as well as an explosion in the right wing of the engine after veering off the runway while landing.
Mabrouk Mubarak Salim, Minister of State for Transport, said there was an explosion in the right side of the engine. "So far we don't have precise information but we think the weather is a main reason for what happened."
TACA Airline Airbus A320 (May 30, 2008): An Airbus A320 operated by TACA Airlines in Central America overshot a runway, skidded over an embankment, crashed across the road, and broke into three pieces during a landing at Tegucigalpa Airport, Honduras.
The crash killed five people and injured 65, of the 142 passengers on board. Investigators said the landing had been made difficult by poor visibility and bad weather, such as fog and the remains of Tropical Storm Alma.
"The pilot tried twice to land, but he ... ended up in the middle of the runway, not at the beginning," said passenger Norman Garcia, Honduras' ex-economy and tourism minister and a former ambassador to the United States.
TACA's president in El Salvador, Alfredo Schildknecht, acknowledged that the pilot made two attempts to land at Toncontin.
"The first time he aborted due to poor visibility, and the second time the braking was not optimal," he said. "The landing strip was wet and the plane overshot it."
Brazil TAM Airlines Airbus A320 (July 17, 2007): On July 17, Brazilian TAM Airlines-operated Airbus A320 crashed into a fuel station at the Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo and exploded, killing 199 people in what was the largest disaster in Brazil's aviation history.
Though TAM President Marco Antonio Bologna denied questions of failed safety or inadequate equipment, a released transcript of the cockpit conversation suggested that the accident was caused by either mechanical failure or pilot error. Later, a report cited government failure to repair the airport's drainage system and establish rainy weather protocol for landing on the short runway.
Much of the report focuses on the runway, where landings are periodically suspended during rainstorms. Investigators said Brazil's National Civil Aviation Agency failed to craft stricter rainy-day landing rules. It also blamed Infraero, a government agency that oversees airport infrastructure, for failing to complete grooving on the runway that would have sped drainage, the newspaper said.
Sibir Airlines Airbus A310-300 (July 9, 2006): The plane was flying from Moscow to Irkutsk through rain and thunderstorms. Unable to stop on the runway after landing, the aircraft collided with a "concrete structure" and caught fire after breaking into pieces, killing 124 people.
Weather at Irkutsk included a low overcast, rain, and thunderstorms in the area. The aircraft landed on the runway, but was unable to stop on the runway.
Kenya Airways A310-300 (January 30, 2000): The plane plunged into the Atlantic Ocean near Abidjan, Ivory Coast, while flying to Lagos, Nigeria. 169 people were killed, including all crew members.
Thai Airways International A310-200 (December 1998): The aircraft crashed outside Surat Thani airport after trying to land three times, killing 101 people in all.
The aircraft was on a domestic flight from Bangkok to Surat Thani. There were 90 fatalities among the 132 passengers and 11 fatalities among the 14 crew members.
Tarom Romanian Airlines A310 (March 1995): After taking off in a snowstorm, the plane crashed near Balotesti, Romania, and killed all 60 people onboard.
Russian International Airways A310 (March 1994): The captain allowed at least one child access to flight controls, after which the plane was lost control of and crashed near Novokuznetsk, Russia. All 75 people onboard were killed.
Thai International A310-300 (July 1992): The plane crashed near Katmandu, Nepal, due to use of incorrect procedure, killing all 113 people onboard.
The aircraft had a controlled flight into terrain about 22.5 miles (36 km) from the airport after apparently using an incorrect procedure for a missed approach.