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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Extremely close call on an Airbus 380

Here's a near-disaster in the skies that we hadn't heard about until now:

What was known immediately after the blowout was that the left inner engine suffered an "uncontained" failure, meaning it flung shrapnel through its casing. Photographs showed a hole in the left wing, but there were no official reports of further damage.

But the new information makes it clear that the shrapnel cut hydraulic lines and electric cables in the left wing, disabling equipment throughout the aircraft. It also punctured two of the 11 fuel tanks — meaning highly flammable fuel was streaming from the left wing — and damaged the wing’s spar, or backbone.

With the power lines severed, the crew could not move fuel from the rear tanks to the forward ones as they emptied, creating the potential that the plane would become so tail-heavy it would stall and crash. The crew also could not reposition the left wing’s slats, which are small panels that normally help maintain lift at the low speeds of takeoff and landing. The damage to the spar could have been catastrophic if the plane had hit turbulence.

Sounds like they had a dream team in the cockpit -- and a good thing, too.

Comments (7)

They weren't American pilots Jack. They couldn't possibly be heroes.

Reminds me a little of the Sioux City crash where a United Airlines DC-10 jet had an uncontained failure of the rear engine that knocked out all of the plane's hydraulic systems.
That's the one where the pilot and another pilot who happened to be onboard steered the plane and brought it down using only the differences in thrust between the 2 remaining engines.
Then when the tower asked which runway the plane wanted, the pilot said, "You want to be particular and make it a runway, huh?"

How about United Flt 191 in Chicago?
The engine broke free, went up over the front f the wing, severing three main hydraulic lines. The plane did a barrel roll into the ground. At the time it was the worst plane crash in our history.

Improper maintenance techniques were to blame.

As I recall that Flight 191 accident, a pin similar to a cotter pin had not been installed on the bolt holding the engine in place.

The whole arrangement seemed flimsy to me at the time. IIRC that Hugh Hefner's daughter was killed in that accident. I had just moved here to Portland when it happened, otherwise I would have been involved in the emergency as Bensonville FD had a mutual aid pact with surrounding departments in which I belonged. Volunteer Departments, no less.

As to the Qantas accident, looks like we are going to witness the fight that will ensue when one corporate irresponsibility endangers another, not individual person, or even a class action situation, but one corporate person against another. Corporate swagger is neutralized, or at least, minimized to a degree not applicable to the individual vs corporate.

More and more reasons not to fly.

Maybe the plane is just too damn big. We know they rushed it onto the market in order to avoid losing key customers. Looks like they should have waited.

I hope Boeing isn't making a similar mistake with the 787.

Not to be that guy who always corrects people on the blogs, but
Flight 191 was American Airlines. I can still see the newspaper picture of the plane above O'Hare already rolled over like no airliner is supposed to be.

Thank you, Bill. I thought maybe I was becoming even more forgetful. Both of the other accidents mentioned here involved the DC-10, and both, along with a third (Turkish Airlines, cargo door latch) involved simple, basic design flaws. The Qantas incident can be viewed as one in which complex, interrelated systems responded in unintended ways to produce a near tragedy. Or you could view it as a demonstration of how redundancies and robustness allowed a capable crew to avoid the same. I can't decide.

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