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A380 wake suspected in Challenger loss-of-control event

Investigators are considering the possibility that Airbus A380 wake turbulence might have contributed to a loss-of-control event that badly damaged a business jet in January.

The aircraft rolled three times during the event and lost altitude but the pilots managed to regain a degree of control and land the aircraft at Muscat.

FlightGlobal first learned on 7 February, from sources familiar with the situation, that the 17-year old Bombardier Challenger 604 (D-AMSC) had been found to have sustained serious damage after the landing on 7 January.

The aircraft is registered to German business operator MHS Aviation, which did not respond to subsequent inquiries about the circumstances.

But sources informed FlightGlobal in February that the aircraft was upset while in cruise and that the stress damage to the airframe was so bad that the aircraft would probably be written off.

Preliminary information obtained at the time, yet to be confirmed, suggested the aircraft had lost 10,000ft before control was restored. FlightGlobal understands that the restoration of control was the result of manual intervention, rather than automatic system input.

A source close to the probe has told FlightGlobal that the investigation is looking into A380 flightpaths at the time, and that a wake encounter is a line of inquiry. No specific A380 operator has been linked to the event.

The event had been described by Oman’s Public Authority for Civil Aviation as an emergency landing following left-hand engine failure, but PACA did not subsequently respond to inquiries in February for additional data on the possible wake turbulence encounter.

German investigation authority BFU is heading the inquiry but is yet to issue any preliminary findings.

BFU is not confirming many details of the probe beyond stating that it has sent two examiners to Muscat to study the aircraft, and that it is waiting for the flight-data and cockpit-voice recorders to be transferred for analysis.

But a spokesman for the authority states that it is treating the event, which occurred at 35,000ft, as an “accident” involving loss-of-control and says the Challenger is “fully damaged”, and will not fly again.

It has not identified the operator of the business aircraft, in line with German regulations, nor disclosed the number of occupants or the extent and nature of any injuries.

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