Airbus confident of safely evacuating over 750 people during full-scale test monitored by FAA and EASA observers

Airbus is to undertake the full-scale evacuation test of the A380 on 26 March, and is confident that it will be able to demonstrate that it can show the safe egress of more than 750 passengers, having set itself a maximum target of 853. The manufacturer is prepared to repeat the exercise a week later if the figure is significantly lower than its forecast minimum, or if it has to abort the test for any reason.

Airbus says European and US regulators could refuse to accept the raw numerical result if they are unhappy with any aspects of what they observe during the test.

The demonstration in Hamburg will use 853 volunteer “passengers” drawn from Airbus staff and local gym members, plus 18 cabin crew provided by Lufthansa and two flightcrew. The 873 occupants have to be safely evacuated in 90s using half the exits on each deck.

Airbus says 16 observers from the US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will watch using 40 infrared cameras inside and outside the aircraft.

It is planned they will rule on the initial approved load for type certification within days, after which Airbus will decide whether it needs to repeat the test, which requires 1,100 volunteers.

“If it is below 650 we will definitely have to do it again. But we are confident of it being above 750,” says A380 safety director Francis Guimera.

One concern is that a technical fault or injury to a participant could negate the test. Guimera says: “There are two or three things that could be an issue – either we have one slide that does not inflate or deflates during the test, in which case we have to stop for safety reasons. Or if we have an untimely safety event for the evacuees, in which case again we have to stop.”

He says that, even if a particular number of people are evacuated, that might not be the final certificated figure if the regulators are dissatisfied with the way the evacuation proceeded.

“What we cannot suffer is that inside the cabin we have some congestion in some doors, which fortuitously for us is solved by the cabin crew but [the regulators] say ‘you are lucky to achieve that figure’,” Guimera says. Apart from that degree of discretion, the details of the test – which is more ambitious than anything previously attempted by an airframer – have been agreed. Key points are: 

  • Although Airbus will be told 48h before the test which doors to disable, the cabin crew will not know;
  • the test will take place in the dark, with only minimal safety lighting outside; 
  • the crew and volunteers must be “naive” – in that they must not have taken part in any similar exercise within the last six months; 
  • 35% must be aged over 50, a minimum 40% must be female and 15% female and over 50; 
  • for safety reasons, the upper deck slides will be predeployed, the regulators having agreed that this gives no advantage because of the time taken for the doors to open. The occupants enter the aircraft through a tunnel and cannot see which slides are in place.

Regulators will dump soft obstacles such as baggage into the aisles and elsewhere before the test.


Source: Flight International