Canadian safety board wants improved inspection after A310 in-flight separation

A better system for checking the structural integrity of composite rudders on Airbus aircraft is needed “urgently”, says Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB). The agency is still investigating the March 2005 loss of most of the rudder from an Air Transat A310-300.

In-service inspections of Airbus rudders have revealed previously undetected delamination, which has prompted the agency to issue safety recommendations. “Information from post-occurrence fleet inspections suggests that the current inspection programme for Airbus composite rudders might not ensure the timely detection of defects,” says the TSB.

Airbus confirms that “one of our customers found some delamination on a composite rudder, the propagation of which was faster because of hydraulic fluid penetration.”

The TSB is recommending “that the [US] Department of Transport and the European Aviation Safety Agency, in co-ordination with other involved regulatory authorities and industry, urgently develop and implement an inspection programme that will allow early and consistent detection of damage to the rudder assembly of aircraft equipped with this type of rudder”. That applies to all Airbus aircraft except A300B2/B4s and the earliest A300-600s and A310s.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has made a similar recommendation to the Federal Aviation Administration, revealing that composite rudder damage has been found during inspection of a FedEx A300-600. The agency adds: “If this urgent recommendation is acted upon quickly it will go a long way to prevent a catastrophic failure of the rudder.”

The Air Transat A310, en route at 35,000ft (10,700m) from Varadero, Cuba to Quebec, Canada with nine crew and 262 passengers on board, suffered separation of almost all its rudder. The crew reported hearing a bang and the aircraft entered a Dutch roll “which decreased as the aircraft altitude reduced”, according to the TSB. The aircraft returned and landed safely at Varadero.


Source: Flight International