Now the basic truths are known. The NTSB (see previous entry) had indeed exaggerated the nature of the problem the pilots had to deal with, but the pilots would still have had their hands full bringing their ship back home safely.
The A319 interim report
By David Learmount on 31 May, 2013 in Uncategorised
The engine – the right one (No 2) that was seen streaming smoke – was indeed the one that the pilots shut down, says the AAIB’s interim report.
The fan cowlings of both engines were not fastened properly, and detached soon after take-off. On the right side an engine fuel line received damage and a leak started. This leak, which appeared to continue after the shutdown, started an external engine fire which did not go out completely when the crew operated the extinguishers.
So the pilots had a working No 1 engine with degraded thrust control, but they were faced with vibration caused by the loss of the cowls, some damage to the high lift devices on both wings (but they were still usable), damage to the undercarriage (one of the main wheel tyres was completely deflated and the yellow hydraulic system had failed), and there was damage to the left horizontal stabiliser,
The single recommendation in this interim report is that Airbus should formally notify all operators of the loss of the cowls, and the need to check visually that the cowl fasteners are latched before departure. This appears to identify the cause of the accident, although it is not a formal verdict until the final report is published.
No-one has called on Airbus (yet anyway) to consider redesigning the cowls so the fasteners are positioned more visibly to both technicians and pilots on their walkaround. They are right at the bottom of the engine casing, only about 2ft above the tarmac. You have to crouch to see them.
BA says it has already strengthened procedures for engineering technicians and crew pre-flight checks. There were at least two, and possibly more, opportunities for this mistake to have been noticed, but no-one did. The crew who did such a good job bringing the aeroplane safely back to base will be feeling pretty upset that they, the system’s final goalkeepers, let this one past them, even if mitigating circumstances are established during the remainder of the inquiry.
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