Airbus have never shied away from using composite materials on their aircraft. Ever since their A300 rolled out of the FAL and eventually took to the skies every Airbus right through to the forthcoming A350 XWB have had a higher level of composites built in. In a lot of cases in high stress points such as the joints between tail fin and fuselage, rudder and tail fin and so on.
But is the use of composites in such critical areas a cause for concern?
There have been two incidents whereby the rudder of an A300/A310 has separated from the aircraft. One time on flight AA587 when the rudder snapped off due to a combination of turbulence and aggressive pilot input resulting in the deaths of all on board. The second notable incident was on Air Transat Flight 961. Again the rudder snapped off but this time during cruise flight. It was later attributed to an undetected stress fracture which suddenly ruptured. Luckily, this time no one lost their life and the pilots where able to land safely.
Flight AF447 an A330-200 flying from Rio De Janeiro to Paris suddenly disappeared. The tail fin was found supposedly intact floating on the sea. Reading the internet, many people relate this to the previous confirmed composite failures because the tail was found much further away from the bodies and other wreckage. Did the tail break off before the plane crashed? Did the tail get ripped off during impact? If this is another composite failure should this warrant the grounding of the entire Airbus fleet as unsafe? Does this jeopardise the future of the Boeing 787 or the Airbus A350XWB?
Many people have called for the A330 or the entire Airbus fleet to be grounded until the cause of AF447's demise is identified. Is this being blown out of all perspective? Are people reacting too hastily, or too scared?
It certainly raises some interesting questions.
I personally would still fly onboard any Airbus aircraft - their overall safety record is brilliant with most incidents/accidents being attributed to pilot/human error. My ultimate thought is that the internet has a lot to answer for. Everyone has an opinion and can easily share this and undoubtedly a lot of those opinions are formed on other uninformed opinions or from articles that claim to know the truth but actually don't.
What do you think?
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