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ORAC
27th Feb 2008, 09:24
Airbus Plane Flew Twice With Broken Gear, AAIB Says

Feb. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Airbus SAS, the world's biggest manufacturer of commercial planes, should change maintenance instructions for A320 aircraft after a plane was twice allowed to take off with damaged landing gear, U.K. investigators said.

The plane, operated by Thomas Cook Group Plc, was damaged in a "hard landing'' in Bristol, England, on Nov. 15, 2006, after flying through high wind and turbulence, the Department for Transport's Air Accidents Investigation Branch said today in an e-mailed report (http://www.aaib.dft.gov.uk/publications/formal_reports/4_2008_g_bxkd.cfm).

The pilots alerted an engineer in Bristol to the rough touchdown, but damage to the right main landing gear wasn't identified. The wheels failed to retract on the next flight and the plane was diverted to Manchester. The problem occurred again on the next takeoff.

"Although checks were carried out at Bristol, an opportunity to find the damage was missed,'' the AAIB said. "It was only after the second landing at Manchester that the damage was discovered.''

The AAIB recommended that Toulouse, France-based Airbus amend maintenance documentation for the A320. The engineer at Bristol had received "inadequate'' training for the computer- based manuals provided by Airbus and didn't perform the right safety check, the AAIB said. The plane should have been jacked up for inspection of the landing gear after the hard landing, the agency said.

"Airbus is already in the process of implementing the recommended changes, in the best interest of global safety,'' the planemaker said in an e-mailed response to questions......

The AAIB issued four recommendations that Airbus amend safety documents to encourage proper procedures in a similar incident.

"The weakest point appears to be the landing gear, and in particular the upper diaphragm, the failure of which is not readily apparent when the aircraft is on the ground,'' the AAIB said. The weather-related incident, "together with previous hard landings on A320 aircraft, demonstrates that the aircraft is able to withstand such landings without suffering major structural damage.''

Engineers at Manchester who examined the plane after the diversion were unaware that the aircraft had made a hard landing at Bristol. It was not until the plane had to divert to Manchester for a second time that the damage was discovered.......