Flight-recorder information from the Airbus A340-600 involved in the Toulouse ground-test accident last week shows that the aircraft’s engines were not retarded to idle until two seconds before the jet struck its test-pen wall.
The aircraft, which had been performing an engine and brake test, was travelling at around 30kt (55km/h) at the time of impact.
French investigators have determined that the A340-600, which was undergoing pre-delivery checks, was being held at standstill with the parking brake on and all four Rolls-Royce Trent 500 powerplants running with a relatively high engine pressure ratio of 1.24-1.26.
Wheel chocks were not inserted under the aircraft at the time of the 15 November accident.
In an information telex to operators Airbus states that high-thrust engine ground runs are normally only performed on one powerplant at a time, with the corresponding engine on the opposite wing running at limited thrust to counterbalance. It adds that wheel chocks should be installed during such tests.
While the parking brake is set, the A340’s alternate brake system provides the brake pressure. This pressure was normal during the Toulouse A340’s engine run.
Investigation agency Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses states that the aircraft, for as-yet undetermined reasons, began to move forward after the engines had been running for about 3min.
The Airbus communication says the crew applied brake-pedal input within 1-2s of the initial movement and switched off the parking brake; the regular braking system’s pressure rose to its normal level.
But Airbus adds that all four engine thrust levers were only retarded to their ‘idle’ setting about 2s before the aircraft collided with the wall. By that point the aircraft had been in motion for around 11s.
“There is no evidence of any aircraft system or engine malfunction,” says Airbus vice-president for flight safety Yannick Malinge. “Airbus reminds all operators to strictly adhere to [aircraft maintenance manual] procedures when performing engine ground runs.”
Investigations are still continuing into the accident which destroyed the aircraft and injured several of the nine personnel on board. The jet had been scheduled for delivery to Etihad Airways on 21 November.