Airbus has its challenges, too

While headlines have understandably been focused on Boeing this week, Airbus has its problems, too. The Qantas A380 Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine uncontained failure continues to generate news stories. The QF 32 flight details still are emerging, and one–in an email we received today–gives a good example of “cascading failures” that can happen in an emergency.

Recall that the 787 ZA002 had a series of cascading failures following the fire in the electronics bay, the details of which have yet to be learned beyond some generalities. Here’s what we learned about the cascading failures associated with QF 32:

Email from a Reader:

Here are just SOME of the problems the Qantas pilot had in Singapore last week aboard QF32:

  • the engine explosion;
  • massive fuel leak in the left mid fuel tank (the beast has 11 tanks, including in the horizontal stabilizer on the tail);
  • massive fuel leak in the left inner fuel tank;
  • a hole on the flap canoe/fairing that you could fit your upper body through;
  • the aft gallery in the fuel system failed, preventing many fuel transfer functions;
  • fuel jettison had problems due to the previous problem above;
  • bloody great hole in the upper wing surface;
  • partial failure of leading edge slats;
  • partial failure of speed brakes/ground spoilers;
  • shrapnel damage to the flaps
  • TOTAL loss of all hydraulic fluid in the Green System (beast has 2 x 5,000 PSI systems, Green and Yellow);
  • manual extension of landing gear;
  • loss of one generator and associated systems;
  • loss of brake anti-skid system;
  • unable to shutdown adjacent #1 engine using normal method after landing due to major damage to systems;
  • unable to shutdown adjacent #1 engine using the fire switch—therefore, no fire protection was available for that engine after the explosion in #2;
  • ECAM warnings about major fuel imbalance because of fuel leaks on left side, that were UNABLE to be fixed with cross-feeding; fuel trapped in Trim Tank (in the tail).  Therefore, possible major Cof G out-of-balance condition for landing;
  • and much more to come….

Richard de Crespigny was in the left seat, FO (first officer) in the right, SO in the second observer’s seat (right rear, also with his own Radio Management Panel, so he probably did most of the coordination with the ground), Capt Dave Evans in the first observer seat (middle).  He is a Check & Training Captain who was training Harry Wubbin to be one also.  Harry was in the third observer seat (left rear).  All five guys were FLAT OUT, especially the FO, who would have been processing complicated ‘ECAM’ messages and procedures that were seemingly never-ending.

Rolls-Royce has pinpointed the issue with the Trent 900; see this story.

New A350 delay likely:

Here is a story about further anticipated delays in the A350 program.

Electrical problem could short out cockpit displays

Just as the 787 e-bay fire caused cockpit instruments to blink out in ZA002 this week, Airbus has had electronic/instrumentation issues, too. This story tells that Airbus is about to issue a formal warning about this.

13 Comments on “Airbus has its challenges, too

  1. Many Europeans (including me) are heavily against EADS/Airbus taking part in this tanker competition and we imploringly hope Airbus will lose it this time. The reason is simple: We do not trust the soundness of US defense spending (and general US financial behaviour) anymore. We heavily fear Airbus tanker deliveries to the US air force will never be paid and Airbus will end up in ruins. If EADS/Airbus succeed once again in this competition, a lot of us are willing to sabotage the deal down to its dirty end.

    • This is a load of nonsense, if Europeans dont really want EADS to win then its mostly because they dont want them to build an assembly in NA. Not that I believe that most Europeans are rooting for Boeing in this one 😛

      • Believe whatever you like, I don’t care.
        But be assured, if we want the deal to bounce, it WILL bounce, one way or the other.

    • So your reply to the post on the A380 cascading failure, 350, and 787 fire relates in what way? It is a good reply but why didn’t you put it in a Tanker thread

    • Evin, I disagree. I think it will be good for USAF, US and EU if EADS takes part in the bidding. But I agree with Jay, better leave it for another thread.

  2. uhm isnt that pretty much all directly attributable to the damage the engine inflicted on the wing?

    ofc Airbus has problems too (and serious ones too), but the ones you listed arent really the ones that matter currently. The A380 mishap pretty much only goes on RRs cap and i have yet to see anything substantial that would indicate that the airframe wasnt up to it in that situation. I also wouldnt compare electrical glitches on an airframe in widespread use to an electrical fire with emergency landing on an aiframe thats 3 month before supposed EIS.

    the A350 ofc cant really afford along delay as it would be very costly, which makes the a320 neo decision complicated for Airbus due to a shortage of resources. that is indeeed a problem

    • “… which makes the a320 neo decision complicated for Airbus…”.
      I tend to agree, if Boeing really is going to sit tight and do nothing for the time being, Airbus should avoid stretching their engineering capacity at this crucial time.

  3. The ‘Reader’ could have just linked the original article…

    Yes, the QF incident was serious but the plane had done exactly what it was suppose to do, it landed safely after sustaining major damage and the redundancy, designed into the aircraft, allowed everybody to get off. After an engine failure like that, I doubt any other aircraft would have sustained less damage or avoided the loss of hydraulic or electrical systems.

    About the A350… remains to be seen what will happen to the programme but I will consider it a success if Airbus can keep the delay to 6 months. I think a lot of people are directly comparing the Boeing problems with what Airbus might come across. This maybe a mistake. We’ll see how Airbus handles production and industrialization.

    • There are reports around that give more objective detail and lack the tabloid streak.

      The loss of one hydraulics system belongs further up and other failures cascade from that point. One should keep in mind that the autonomous elektrohydraulics were all available (the “3rd” and “4th” actuator systems).

      The most interesting thing for Airbus is to determine if this has exposed any shortcomings in failure mitigation. ( while a lot of outside observers go for the “we are all gona die” adrenaline rush.) But hovering too myoptically over the details of this events failure scenario will not be all that helpfull.

      ( The BBC link on electrics is the way I like my reporting )

  4. I just wonder how a standard crew of just two could have coped with this situation if five (more by luck than planning) were so tied up.
    Not necessarily a “bring back the flight engineer” proponent, but those four Trent 900’s are the equivalent of a 130mW power station, and not many of those operate simply on automation, as we expect that an airliner will do every day without intervention.

  5. I certainly share Evan’s concern about US Gov finances, and the tone of deserved disrespect it implies. But to say that the tanker will never be paid for is over the top. Fact is, our two aviation industries are heavilly linked. So much so that one might say that all American and European big commercial planes are in fact built in both places because parts come from both – engines, electronics, landing gear, fuselage sections, etc. The real issue here is what we and the Europeans want our avaition relationship to be? I strongly favor a two plane solution to the tanker embroglio because that is the only way way it will get done and because it will mean jobs in Ala and elsewhere in the US. It will also mean continued and perhaps more jobs in Europe. We are in fact allies and need to resolve this competition accordingly.

    • “But to say that the tanker will never be paid for is over the top.”

      The US Fed is currently printing money like there is no tommorrow, devalueing
      the Dollar in a massive way. This could be seen as not much different from
      “not paying” imho.

      Such a willfull and haphazard monetary policy could make a dollar denominated
      longterm contract a dangerous endeavour.

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