Thursday, July 31, 2008

Aerobatics by RSAF Black Knights

The Republic of Singapore Air Force Black Knights performing in their F16 jets for the National day parade

Monday, July 28, 2008

Qantas jet emergency landing

AFP - Monday, July 28SYDNEY (AFP) - - An onboard oxygen bottle has never before exploded on a passenger jet in mid-air, airline and air safety officials said Monday, as investigators probed the cause of a huge hole in a Qantas jumbo.

The Australian carrier is carrying out urgent inspections of oxygen bottles on its entire fleet of Boeing 747s after the fuselage of a 747-400 was ripped open, forcing an emergency landing Friday in Manila.

"Boeing advises that no, they have not had one of their aircraft with an oxygen tank disintegrating," Qantas chief engineer David Cox told reporters.

Australian Air Transport Safety Board (ATSB) investigators are focusing on whether an oxygen bottle used for emergency back-up for the cockpit exploded mid-flight, tearing a three-metre (10-foot) hole in the Boeing's hull.

One of two such cylinders is missing from the plane, which was en route from Hong Kong to Melbourne and had 365 passengers and crew on board when it was forced to land, investigators said.

But Cox refused to speculate on whether an exploding oxygen bottle was to blame for rupturing the Boeing's hull in an incident that Qantas executives acknowledged ended in a lucky escape for passengers.

"We don't know that was the root cause so that's why we're not going to speculate. The fact that that has never happened may be relevant, it may not be relevant," Cox said.

Air safety officials confirmed that if an exploding oxygen bottle is proved to have blown a hole in the jet, it would mark the first time such an incident has been recorded in a large passenger plane.

"As far as we can determine this has never happened before on a passenger aircraft," Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) spokesman Peter Gibson said.

"There's no reports of it anywhere, so it's very, very unusual and obviously understanding why that happened will be absolutely critical to making sure it can't occur again," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"If it turns out that is the cause of the accident, the cause of the hole in the side of the aircraft, obviously that will be a key part of the investigation, working out why a bottle would suddenly give way," Gibson said.

Metal fatigue in the cylinder, a failure of the regulator valve, something hitting it and puncturing the bottle, or it overheating, were among possible causes the ATSB would look at, he said.

"Maintenance has to be looked at obviously, yes you can't rule that out, but at this stage you look at absolutely everything," Gibson told ABC radio.

Qantas has ordered checks on the oxygen bottles -- they are due to be completed this week -- after Australian investigators leading the probe in the Philippines revealed a cylinder was missing from the plane.

But outgoing Qantas Chief Executive Geoff Dixon defended the airline's "enviable" safety record and dismissed speculation that the stricken aircraft may have been improperly maintained.

"We have very strict maintenance and security in this company, I think we have a worldwide reputation for it," Dixon told a press conference in Sydney.

Some passengers have alleged that the oxygen masks that dropped from the ceiling when the plane began its emergency descent following depressurisation did not work and one claimed the elastic headband on his mask had deteriorated.

"There is no doubt that all of our masks are checked on a regular basis, yet there is every chance that the trauma suffered by the aircraft may have interfered with other systems," Dixon said.

"We believe that everything in that aircraft was in good shape when it took off," he said.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A380 news on Financial Times

A Singapore Airlines A380 on its way to the gate

It has been a well known fact that different versions of computer software being used by the French and German plants resulted in delays in the A380 program.

An article on the July 16 2008 copy of the Financial Times explains the problems faced by Airbus in the production of the A380. 2000 German electricians have been sent from the Hamburg plant to Toulouse to lay the 500km of cables in the A380. The Unions say "a do it yourself system has replaced streamlined industrial processes." FT quoted a worker, Sabine Klauke who said "The work is not streamlined.We have to change things again and again." Ms Klauke was further quoted with saying:"Normal installation time is two to three weeks,this way it is taking us four months."

One might wonder why the management had to resort to such a manufacturing process and not fix it. Mario Heinin who runs the cabin and fuselage cross-border division explains :"We have delivered five high quality aircraft this way.If we had left the work in Hamburg, to wait for a new wiring design, we would not have delivered one by now."

Monday, July 21, 2008

A380 program

This Singapore Airlines A380 was photographed at its home base in Singapore's Changi airport

The A380 program captured the world's imagination when the first plane entered into test flights.

But problems in the program surfaced as far back as 2004 when EADS realised that the facilities in Spain and Germany were using different versions of the software that was used to build the aircraft. In June 2005 Airbus announced that the delivery date would fall back by six months. On 13 June 2006 another delay was announced. On 3 october 2006 a third delay was announced pushing delivery to Oct 2007.
The first plane was finally handed to Singapore airlines on 15 October 2007 and entered into service on the Singapore-Sydney route on 25 October 2007.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Concorde crash

CERGY, France (AFP) - - US airline Continental and two of its employees are to stand trial for manslaughter over the crash of an Air France Concorde airliner in 2000 that killed 113 people, officials said Thursday.

A former French civil aviation official and two senior members of the Concorde programme will be tried on the same charge, with proceedings expected to start early next year and last two to three months, judicial officials said.

The New York-bound Concorde crashed in a ball of fire shortly after take-off from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport on July 25, 2000, killing all 109 people on board and four workers on the ground.

A French accident inquiry concluded in December 2004 that the disaster was partly caused by a strip of metal that fell on the runway from a Continental Airlines plane that took off just before the supersonic airliner.

The Concorde ran over the super-hard titanium strip, which shredded one of its tyres, causing a blow-out and sending debris flying into an engine and a fuel tank.

Continental Airlines is charged over a failure to properly maintain the aircraft along with two US employees: John Taylor, a mechanic who allegedly fitted the non-standard strip, and airline chief of maintenance Stanley Ford.

But the former Concorde officials and French civil aviation boss are also accused of failing to detect and set right faults on the supersonic aircraft, brought to light during the investigation and thought to have contributed to the crash.

Henri Perrier, 79, was director of the first Concorde programme at Aerospatiale, now part of the EADS group, from 1978 to 1994, while Jacques Herubel, 73, was Concorde's chief engineer from 1993 to 1995.

Both men are accused of having underestimated the importance of a string of prior incidents involving burst tyres on Concorde aircraft.

Finally Claude Frantzen, 71, director of technical services at the civil aviation authority DGAC from 1970 to 1994, is accused of overlooking a fault on Concorde's distinctive delta-shaped wings, which held its fuel tanks.

The trial will aim to pin down the share of responsibility of the US airline, the Concorde and French aviation officials.

There will be few civil plaintiffs in the case, since most of the victims' families agreed not to take legal action in exchange for compensation from Air France.

Throughout the eight-year investigation, Continental pledged to fight any charges in the case. A successful prosecution is expected to result in millions of euros (dollars) in damages against the airline.

For Olivier Metzner, lawyer for Continental Airlines, "any plane in good condition would have resisted that metal strip, but the Concorde was a wreck. But of course you can't say that because it is a national treasure."

But the lawyer for the DGAC, Daniel Soulez Lariviere, dismissed as a "fantasy" suggestions that faults on the Concorde were overlooked because of national pride.

"The tearing-off of the reservoir panel is something that had never happened before, and that we did not not know was possible."

The Concorde crash began the process which led to all Concordes, both French and British, being taken out of service in 2003.

The plane, born of British and French collaboration, embarked on its maiden commercial flight in 1976. Only 20 were manufactured: six were used for development and the remaining 14 entered service, flying mainly trans-Atlantic routes at speeds of up to 1,350 miles (2,170 kilometres) per hour.