Emirates and Airbus tackle take-off performance spectre

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Emirates and Airbus are each looking at the possibility of developing take-off monitoring systems aimed at addressing the risk of accidents arising from erroneous performance calculations.

Airbus has indicated that a feasibility study for a system to compute theoretical acceleration, and alert the pilots if actual acceleration does not compare. The study is looking at a certification target of 2015 for the A380 and 2015-20 for the A320 and A330/340.

Emirates is also assisting an avionics company to develop a take-off acceleration monitoring and alerting system.

The efforts have been disclosed as part of the investigation into the serious Emirates Airbus A340-500 tailstrike at Melbourne in March 2009, which occurred after the crew mistakenly used a take-off weight 100t below the actual figure.

Failure to trap data-entry errors has led to several incidents involving unexpected aircraft behaviour on departure, but the Emirates event underscored the potential for a catastrophic accident.

In its final report into the event, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau highlighted Airbus's development of a software function designated 'Take-off Securing', which automatically checks the consistency of data being entered into the flight management system.

Simulation of this function using the take-off performance parameters for the A340 accident demonstrated that it would have generated warning that take-off speed was too low.

Airbus has since advised that it plans additional development to include functions checking that the aircraft has sufficient runway length to conduct a safe take-off, the ATSB added.

While acknowledging that the feasibility of take-off monitoring systems has "not yet been demonstrated", the European Aviation Safety Agency is co-operating with the European aviation equipment organisation EUROCAE to examine whether common standards could be developed.

This contrasts with the US FAA view - sought by the ATSB - that such systems, given "all of their inherent complexity", would be "more problematical than reliance on adequate airmanship".

The ATSB said it is "concerned that the apparent [FAA] inaction" is a "missed opportunity" to enhance air transport safety.

In its final report into the Emirates event, the ATSB said that it "recognises the inherent technical difficulties" associated with development of such systems, and that the efforts are in the "very early stages" of research, but pointed out that this equipment will "significantly enhance" aircraft fitted with the equipment.