View Full Version : Implied A320 Electrical systems issues....

11th Aug 2008, 09:22
I have spotted an article in an online electronics magazine, but was confused somewhat by their "report" concerning an alleged issue with the A320 electrical systems.

My favourite parts are where they talk about cockpit instruments being "wiped out a staggering 37 times" :ugh: and the "fate of the aircraft" being left "entirely in the hands of the pilots" :\

Can anyone translate this into fact or should I just go back to my morning coffee and forget about it?


A320’s electrical system falters
Airbus has had several serious errors in the electrical system on its A320 planes. The American National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has now sharply criticised the European aviation for not being stricter with Airbus and the companies that operate A320.

The cockpit instruments of the Airbus A320 have been wiped out a staggering 37 times. The failure has wiped out several important instruments and during that time, the fate of the airplane has been left entirely to the hands of the pilots. These errors occur sometimes and are not being recorded, states the Danish newspaper ingeniören. However, it is possible to make slight modifications and pilots are able to regain control of the airplane.

Neither the U.S. or European authorities have, however, decided to impose such an adjustment or modification. This has upsets the independent American National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The fault lies in the power AC 1, which for some unknown reason may flinch at times.

The European Agency EASA is now investigating the matter, but it is yet unclear when a any redesign can demanded.

Original Article (http://www.evertiq.com/news/read.do?news=12019):



11th Aug 2008, 09:49
The failure has wiped out several important instruments and during that time the fate of the airplane has been left entirely to the hands of the pilots.

:eek: Good God!! I didn't know it was the electronics in the aircraft that flew the plane rather than the pilots at the controls! Gone are the days when a pilot could rely on a standby AH, ASI, ALT and compass to "SAFELY" aviate! An FCU failure nowadays in most companies would constitute a MAYDAY situ! :mad:

However, it is possible to make slight modifications and pilots are able to regain control of the airplane.

I take it the "PILOTS" were spinning out of control or diving for the ground then? :ugh:

R04stb33f, mate, i suggest you go back to the morning coffee and enjoy it! :ok:

11th Aug 2008, 11:34
Story is running in Danish paper Ingeniøren Ingeniøren (http://ing.dk/)

The NTSB safety recommendation
the National Transportation Safety Board recommends that the European Aviation Safety Agency:
Require all operators of Airbus A320 family aircraft to modify these aircraft in accordance with Airbus Service Bulletin A320-24-1120 to provide the automatic reconfiguration of the AC essential bus power supply in the event that the AC 1 electrical bus fails. (A-08-56)
Require Airbus to develop a modification for in-service A320 family aircraft such that, in the event of an AC 1 electrical bus failure, the standby attitude indicator is powered by an additional power source that will last for a minimum of 30 minutes, and require operators to incorporate this modification as soon as possible after it is available. (A-08-57)
Require all operators of A320 aircraft to develop new procedures, if necessary, and to provide flight crews with guidance and simulator training regarding the symptoms and resolution procedures for the loss of flight displays and systems in conjunction with an AC 1 electrical bus failure. (A-08-58)

The NTSB report is in response to this incident
January 25, 2008, Airbus A320, N462UA, operated by United Airlines as flight 731
Here is link to an european incident, also related to modification 37317 & Service Bulletin SB A320-24-1120.
Air Accidents Investigation Branch: 2/2008 G-EUOB (http://www.aaib.dft.gov.uk/publications/formal_reports/2_2008_g_euob.cfm)
Report No: 2/2008. Report on the serious incident to Airbus A319-131, registration G-EUOB, during the climb after departure from London Heathrow Airport on 22 October 2005

Australian AD

11th Aug 2008, 12:37
Heven forbid the pilots have to take over flying the aircraft! What is the world coming to when the pilots have to fly the plane??? Who will think of the children???

I'm thinking lost in translation to be honest... ;)

11th Aug 2008, 15:57
The author of the article is obviously a noted aviation specialist.
Here are some titles of some of his more recent work:

Sensitivity of Titanium Brackets to the Corrosive Influence of Fluoride-Containing Toothpaste and Tea

Poland attracts automotive industry

Semiconductor sales on record high

Hilco hosts auction on behalf of Elcoteq

Dell to double number of employees in Poland

My personal favorite:
Electrolube has appointed Robert Crosby-Clarke to General Manager of UK Sales

O'Neill No6
11th Aug 2008, 22:34
Whilst it is implied by some (not solely on this thread btw) that loss of electrical systems/normal instruments leaves the aircraft solely under the control of the pilots, and that some people on the forum may find it strange that such a comment is made.

Remember this is the problem with electronic/computerised aircraft. That when the electronics develop any deficiencies it takes a big step to extract oneself (as a crew) to then operate the aircraft as an aeroplane. Even the old 757, basic in todays world as it was (and maybe that was part of the problem), could confuse pilots enormously with certain failures. A "basic" instrument panel scenario was difficult to convert to. Berganair out of Puerto Plata, the first ever 757 hull loss, is for me a perfect example. Many conflicting pieces of information when, in fact, if the poor pilots had realised the problem (blocked static tubes), they could have immediately transferred to the basic information. They didn't (in time?) and a fairly serviceable aircraft hit the sea with a terrible human cost.

I think the lesson to be learned is to consider carefully what you will see on that cold dark night that this happens, and how you will react.

I am not a 320 expert but have a very good understanding of how difficult these situations can be after 20 years on Boeing aircraft.

To anybody who is unanniciated in operating these types of aircraft. Just imagine driving a big heavy car (Jaguar XJ say) and all of sudden the power steering fails, just as you go into a sharp bend! It's still a car but boy it's a different car than it was before the steering developed problems! It's still got to get around that bend without you crashing it!

Just my opinion. I must say that after 30 years of flying one of the best things any pilot can do is to consider many scenarios within many different operating environments and picture how it could possibly be dealt with.

Stay alert folks. Safe flying. O'Neill No6

12th Aug 2008, 01:47
I remember while in the RAF some pilots(late 50s early 60s)would hang a nut on a piece of string from the roof in front of the inst panel.Isaac Newtons law would keep it perpendicular while the airplane moved left /right /downhill or uphill!!!Perfect back up!!

12th Aug 2008, 02:44
An electrical system failure in a completely Fly-by-wire aircraft is actually NOT a subject of valid concern? :uhoh: Am I understanding the majority of pilots posting here, so far, correctly?

12th Aug 2008, 03:34

Yes. Me thinks your nic says it all.

12th Aug 2008, 04:04
Me wonders what my "nic" has to do with my question, or this topic?

That aside, in your opinion there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about regarding cockpit electrical failures in the A320, with respect to the control of the aircraft.

Opinion noted, thank you.

Brian Abraham
12th Aug 2008, 04:28
Tried and tested back up - hang a nut on a piece of string from the roof
Don't think so, any one who tried (in real IMC) would not have lived to report the results. Though there was one NZ test pilot who thought it a perfectly good back up. Tw*t. :{

12th Aug 2008, 04:32
Will be interesting to see how the A320 and others in the family mature. Passing time complicates logistics for inserting design changes and maintaining the overall functionality of systems as the airframes age and many individual ones see progressively less thorough maintenance & update support as their value declines.

Electronics and computing technology have accomplished remarkable improvements in density, functionality and performance. For the most part, the art and science of maintaining manufactured versions of these advanced technologies has lagged the pace of application, so that many products just die off when they become unmaintainable. The long lives expected from larger aircraft are not compatible with the philosophy of discarding them at a relatively young age. As the abstraction of fleet age turns into reality, the challenge of keeping the original airframes safe and functional in the field will increase exponentially in difficulty - because of support issues, revision levels, and incompatibilities in the electronics and software of individual units.

Perhaps the most successful support method will be to periodically refurb and "reset" the aircraft to current software rev compatibility by just pulling out all the old electronics & systems and replacing 'em with a full new current set (of pieces that are known to be operationally compatible) one or more times during the airframe service life.

12th Aug 2008, 07:59
Airbus may be taking their time... but rather a lot of fuss about not a lot :ugh:

This AC issue is probably complex to solve - it is easy to say "automatically switch AC busses", but to design a "safer" system than current, and ensure there are no hidden flaws, no doubt takes time.

Please understand that to solve this "major failure" that requires, god forbid, pilots to fly the aeroplane :ooh: is to press one button :ok: There have been sim training exercises highlighting this...


12th Aug 2008, 09:58
New Scientist had this recently..
Airline cockpit blackouts are not being tackled - tech - 06 August 2008 - New Scientist Tech (http://technology.newscientist.com/channel/tech/mg19926675.800-airline-cockpit-blackouts-are-not-being-tackled.html)

Airline cockpit blackouts are not being tackled
06 August 2008

AVIATION regulators have been chastised by the US air safety watchdog for not forcing airlines to fix a problem that has made the cockpit instruments in some airliners abruptly go blank.

In the Airbus A320, failures of the primary wiring system carrying power to the cockpit have not always led to the backup system kicking in automatically, leaving pilots dangerously distracted as they struggle to restore normality. This happened on 37 flights up to May 2007, prompting Airbus to publish a modification to the A320's electrical system.

However, both the European Aviation Safety Agency and US Federal Aviation Administration have failed to insist that airlines install it, the US National Transportation Safety Board said last week. It is urging them to ensure all A320s are patched soon.

13th Aug 2008, 02:31
NoD - Correct.

The expanded ECAM pages are referenced below - the active date indicates that this is a known issue with a straightforward solution. The occurence is certainly disconcerting as could be the result - loss of the airplane in IMC conditions if the following procedure isn't followed. The issue here is not that the problem can't be resolved to achieve safe flight but that the circumstances are challenging, requiring a read-and-do checklist, likely from the OBL paper manual vice the lower ECAM (which would, if I recall correctly, be displaying engine data - that said, again if I recall, the drill "underneath" the engine data can be retrieved using the RECALL button). I am aware of at least one operator which required that the cockpit overhead light remain "ON" (in the 'dim' position) throughout flight at night (or for approach) so that illumination of the needed instruments was immediately available - obviously a temporary, but pro-active SOP.

ABNORMALS 1.02.24 P3


AC BUS 1 normally supplies the AC ESS BUS and, through TR1, the DC ESS BUS. In case
of an AC BUS 1 FAULT both the AC and DC ESS BUS will be lost and therefore the AC
ESS BUS FAULT and the DC ESS BUS FAULT will be displayed on the ECAM. However,
both AC and DC ESS BUS can be recovered by switching the AC ESS FEED pushbutton
to ALTN as displayed in the AC ESS BUS FAULT ECAM procedure.

–BLOWER..................................................... ................... OVRD
The avionics ventilation system is in the closed circuit configuration.
Air conditioning is added to the ventilation air.
– EXTRACT..................................................... .................. OVRD
Affected systems


Though they may not be unfamiliar with controversy and perhaps even seek it, the editors of "The New Scientist" should not be employing the word "dangerous" to describe this issue as it is not normally a scientific term but is, rather, a sensationalist term in journalism. A scientific magazine should be more circumspect and reserved, especially when they are only repeating stories rather than discovering for themselves what the issue is which would enable them to write about it from a basis of knowledge.

The above Airbus "Abnormals" procedure is also described in the NTSB paper to EASA thus: "After landing, the flight crewmembers observed that the "AC ESS FEED" pushbutton on the overhead panel had an illuminated fault indication for the AC 1 electrical bus.5 Both crewmembers stated that this fault indication was not illuminated in flight. They then manually selected the AC essential electrical bus feed to "alternate,"6 which reconfigured the power supply. After this selection, the captain’s instruments, as well as most of the failed aircraft systems resumed functioning."

16th Aug 2008, 08:32
Was involved in one of these incidents a few years ago in Tel Aviv. A/c was almost at V1 when it lost 4 out of six CDU's. Then the Master warnings went off but with no upper or lower Ecam and F/Os side dead no idea of what the failure was. Bearing in mind most ECAMS are inhibited for take off it had to be serious. The crew opted for aborting the T/O which resulted in four u/s brakes and four blown tyres due thermal overheat.

Similar hapened a couple of weeks later at 10Kft in descent to BFS. This resulted in a/c being grounded and replacement of generator after which all was well

17th Aug 2008, 15:38

Having spent the last 10 years flying the Airbus 319/320, I can say this:

It is quiet and comfortable unless it's has the early generation pilot seats. It does a decent job with performance limitations. The airplane itself can be touchy and glitchy. It navigates from behind itself, as do all a/c with this FMS. It takes a simple FMS entry and makes it too complex. The autopilot can be rough if the parameters aren't correct before you turn one on. It will set you up for a problem like no other a/c I've ever flown, so you have to babysit it all of the time. Often something fails only to not even know it did it!

To whit: When we got to the a/c yesterday for our trip home, we had 2 faults on the ECAM. 1) ILS 1 Fault, 2) LAV Smoke Detector. Both were computer resets, just pulling & resetting c/b's for 10-15 sec.(quite the norm for the Airbus) On our arrival while on downwind, SEC 1 (primary spoilers & elevators computer) decided to kick off for no apparent reason. Sure it came back online after the ECAM actions were performed, as do most faults in this a/c. The odd thing is that despite all of the supposed technology in this a/c, not one of those failures recorded in the CFDS fault reporting system even though 2 (LAV Smoke + SEC 1) were hard faults! (annunciated on ECAM & not intermittent)

I don't claim to be the ace of the base on this a/c but after 34 years of flying I think even an old dog like me should be able to fully understand an aircraft system or two. Not this bird though. You just have to learn it's idiosyncrasies, and know that the faults probably aren't real...not the norm on any Boeing product I've flown anyway.


Mach trim
17th Aug 2008, 17:04
I totally agree Ogee, well said!

Personally if someone could englighten ne on the Airbus OEB system.

Why does this problem not warrant a OEB or some sort of communication from Airbus for sure they could provide us with some more useful info ? Yes the procedure is in the FCOM 3 is this enough ?

" They then manually selected the AC essential electrical bus feed to "alternate,"6 which reconfigured the power supply."

If your airplane goes black, seleect ESS ALTERNATE, Could this not be a potential memory item in certain situations ?

18th Aug 2008, 00:46
as NoD says "it is easy to say "automatically switch AC busses"...." however it is understandable for a poor little AC1 coming across say an A380 in the dark and "Flinching..." :eek: English may not be as poetic as the romantic languages, but the media certainly try.

Boeing and Airbus products (sundry versions of each) have achieved the "dark cockpit" (OK, sometime Bright Cockpit... sans displays), for various root causes:cool:

Was, is, and shall be a problem for crews to confront for the forseeable future. Current training matrix normally relegate stby instrument training to a low priority or none at all. Personally, I like flying with the ISFD stby system which has it's own internal power, rather than the conventional ships battery power stby instruments.

all the best, from the resolute desk...

18th Aug 2008, 14:45
our company just issued a bulletin saying that it would take up to two years for airbus to come up with repair parts to fix this problem.

19th Aug 2008, 20:43
"Electrical systems issues" - Why has the word "issue" replaced the word "problem" in the English language?

19th Aug 2008, 21:23
"Electrical systems issues" - Why has the word "issue" replaced the word "problem" in the English language?

PC and all that. Don't want to offend. :E

19th Aug 2008, 21:27
Why has the word "issue" replaced the word "problem" in the English language?

Nah: 'problem' implies something with a solution; 'issue' means 'oh dear something's wrong'... and by the way, it's not my fault.

20th Aug 2008, 15:18
Hi everyone;

If I don´t remember wrong, Airbus fixed that problem in the new models (B6),
when the AC BUS 1 fails,the AC ESS BUS will AUTOMATICALLY be power by the AC BUS 2, without pressing the AC ESS FEED pushbutton switch.

I hope this helps.


3rd Sep 2008, 20:16
The odd thing is that despite all of the supposed technology in this a/c, not one of those failures recorded in the CFDS fault reporting system even though 2 (LAV Smoke + SEC 1) were hard faults! (annunciated on ECAM & not intermittent)
Faults which are occurred on the Ground and you can reset them before Engine Start are not mentioned on the Post Flight Report. But if you get an SEC Fault while in Flight, also if you can made a reset, this fault must be present on the Post Flight Report. If not, there is something wrong with your aircraft!! Even if you are switching off AP oder ATHR with the associated ECAM Message, we (Maintenance Stuff) can read that on the PFR.