A380 flaw Airbus kept hidden, now revealed

Journalists, even those with a good knowledge of their subject matter, like to feel that with the right questions the truth will out. That under scrutiny the senior executives and others we interview will wilt under the perceptive questioning, the velvet interrogation, with a smile. But the reality is that any organisation can keep their secrets and without some sort of precognition the journalist, and public, will simply never know.

At the Paris Air Show the A380 never raised its landing gear and the official story was that the lengthy time it takes to raise and lower the wheels was problematic for such a short demonstration flight. But at the UK Royal Aeronautical Society A380 Avionics conference held from 4-5 October Airbus vice president for flight test, Harry Nelson, revealed the truth about the gear issue and an unknown fact about the first flight that was broadcast around the world.

The A380, and Nelson is adamant Airbus has now resolved this problem, had a faulty latching system with its right undercarriage door. On the first flight as the giant two-deck beast rose into the air the test pilots got a red light on the right carriage door. Checking with the chase plane, it confirmed that the gear was up and the door closed. But the reality was that the door had not latched and could drop, a potentially dangerous situation. So the 30,000ft altitude planned for first flight was abandoned and the historic aircraft was brought back to Earth early. 

This problem had not been resolved by Le Bourget and that was the real reason the gear wasn’t raised then.

One wonders how many more technical issues have arisen with the A380 and have never been mentioned. One wonders how many technical issues on the Boeing 787 will be kept secret. This is the reality of the world inwhich we live, organisations, whether they are airframe makers or information technology service providers can hide the truth easily. With a plausible story they can obscure the reality.

Its something to remember whenever you read a newspaper or listen to radio or television reports. Since becoming a journalist five years ago I now rarely read a newspaper. Why buy something whose contents you can’t trust? And that’s not always because the journalist has been hoodwinked. Much of the UK press, and print media elsewhere in the world, is biased in favour of their owner’s world view. The public relations managers give the limited “truth” they convey one spin and then the “journalists” give it another; war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.

Its said that history is written by the victor. Now its written by the largely ignorant.

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