European safety authorities have ordered installation of a rudder-input warning system on Airbus A300s and A310s, rejecting attempts by FedEx to block the directive or extend the compliance interval. The modification would warn pilots to stop potentially hazardous rudder inputs at high airspeeds.

US investigators determined that a series of full opposite-rudder inputs on an American Airlines A300-600 - intended to counter a wake-induced roll disturbance - overstressed the vertical fin, which broke off. The jet, climbing out of New York in November 2001, crashed with the loss of all on board. Under a European Aviation Safety Agency directive, effective from 9 July, operators will have four years to install the warning system. The Airbus design change monitors rudder inputs and, upon detecting a dangerous rudder doublet, activates visual and aural alerts.

A300 Fed Ex

Nicolas H (Flightglobal AirSpace)

Pilots at the airline are taught to avoid hard rudder reversals

FedEx, a major operator of the A300 and A310, strongly objected to the modification order, citing its own crew-training regime which, it claims, has "ensured elimination" of excessive rudder pedal inputs. "Although the proposed [warning] system would generally reinforce aforementioned pilot training with regard to rudder pedal input, FedEx does not believe that such a system would add any significant additional level of safety over our current flightcrew training programme," it says.

FedEx also says a new system and the need to modify simulators would cause "major timing and crew scheduling problems" in its training cycle. It sought a six-year compliance interval, but EASA insists its four-year requirement is "achievable". While EASA says it "appreciates" FedEx's pilot-training efforts, it says its internal strategy "might not be the case" for other operators. It says a survey of airline pilots conducted by the US FAA and IATA, published in 2010, showed pilots still use the rudder in ways which "contradict" guidance in upset recovery.

Source: Flight International