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A320 loses half of the left elevator on take-off

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A320 loses half of the left elevator on take-off

Old 30th Jan 2023, 16:08
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A320 loses half of the left elevator on take-off

Came across this article on CAA's (Compagnie Africaine Aviation) Airbus A320 9S-ABM flight BU-415, losing half of the left elevator on take-off.

(if this Pprune topic FLY CAA congo is still relevant to this company, then one shouldn't be too surprised)
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Old 30th Jan 2023, 20:45
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Well the piece was never really lost, it came to rest on the runway.
Remains to be seen, what was loosing this left elevator; left behind it was for sure.


Last edited by DIBO; 31st Jan 2023 at 10:47. Reason: The above makes no sense anymore, now that all the 'wordplay' on my spelling mistake, has been 'mod-cleaned'
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Old 31st Jan 2023, 01:54
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It looks like the hinge joint attached to the stab came loose from the stab; it looks like the fitting is complete and attached to the elevator fragment - anyone got a manual to see if it is held on with bolts? Also possible - the fitting fractured through the rearmost of two fasteners which would leave the hinge attached to the elevator, but with only a stub instead of the entire stab-side hinge half. The photos are too blurry to make out which. If the former why did the fasteners come loose, if the latter what triggered the fracture, and behind door number 3, is there some other possibility?

I'm interest to know how the pilots came to believe that only right hand turns were acceptable and if they would actually have been a problem.
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Old 31st Jan 2023, 06:29
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Not easy to see, and I have no in depth knowledge of A320 structure, but it appears that the elevator spar is still there on the aircraft, the missing section is the composite skin and core that has detached itself from the spar probably due to dis bonding caused by water ingress and the freeze thaw cycle.
Just an aside but what twisting asymmetric loads might have been imparted on the rear fuselage/stabiliser structure when the aircraft rotated with all the forces being on one side.
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Old 31st Jan 2023, 08:03
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I don't think there would be much twisting force involved. Certainly no more than the rudder loads with an engine out.
I would think Airbus may have some worries if this is an undetected failure that could apply to thousands of aircraft. Fleet grounding may happen until inspection is done. Thinking back to the Lusaka Boeing 707 accident.
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Old 31st Jan 2023, 09:30
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Or, maybe the outboard pivot joint failed and released, then the airflow has ripped half the control surface away; separating near the next pivot point?

I wonder if the outboard pivot was not lubricated and became stiffer and stiffer and eventually fractured when the elevator was moved, or possibly previous damage was caused from frozen de-icing fluid - not in Africa, obviously, but elsewhere perhaps?

All that aside, the Captain's decision seems to be extremely questionable :

......The captain decided to continue flying to Kinshasa requesting only right-hand turns. ........


Really ?
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Old 31st Jan 2023, 11:26
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This looks like the hinge with the hinge pin still in place:



As soon as this comes loose it gets to flutter once and then tears off.

Is that wire an electrical bond for lightning?
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Old 31st Jan 2023, 11:30
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Originally Posted by MechEngr
I'm interest to know how the pilots came to believe that only right hand turns were acceptable and if they would actually have been a problem.
Just guessing :
If the disturbed flow was pushing the rudder to the right, the imbalance may have been similar to a reduced thrust on the number 1 engine.
And if the imbalance was the only indication of a malfunction to the pilots, they may have thought that they were really having trouble with that engine and decided to avoid turning towards the dead engine.
They may have also felt intense buffeting.

@Uplinker, I read that Mbuji Mayi runway is 2000 x 45 meters with poor quality pavement.
And probably, the fire fighting service at Mbuji Mayi is at a lesser level to Kinshasa's.
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Old 31st Jan 2023, 19:17
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FOD

A comment on AvH suggests it was some FOD, the HS tip is bent and the underside scratched. Whatever caused that damage also ripped off the majority of the elevator. Possibly ground collision during taxi that went unnoticed by the crew, or runway debris during T/O.
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Old 1st Feb 2023, 18:45
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Whatever happened to the elevator I wonder on what basis did the crew assessed the issue at hand ?
I guess there was no external visual so how did that missing elevator affect the aircraft and what diagnostic did they perform ?

Last edited by atakacs; 2nd Feb 2023 at 19:22.
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Old 1st Feb 2023, 21:56
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@Luc Lion: fair enough, although loss of half an elevator has no effect on LDR.
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Old 2nd Feb 2023, 03:25
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Since this is all spit-balling, I like the idea suggested elsewhere that the elevator tore loose while making a right turn that had required enough up-elevator to keep the nose up to tear the already damaged elevator loose and that they associated making the turn with causing the problem. Wanting to avoid whatever happened in the turn, I can see a desire to avoid giving whatever that was a second shot.

Time to go to the video surveillance to see if there was a hit-and-run.
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Old 2nd Feb 2023, 06:47
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Originally Posted by atakacs
I wonder on what basis the crew assessed the issue at hand ?
Given the amount of elevator missing, I would assume at least one actuator hinge and position sensor would be affected. As these provide feedback to the FCC, there must have been some ECAM alerts, possibly also control degradation. Any bus drivers out there willing to elaborate ?

Last edited by andrasz; 7th Feb 2023 at 07:06.
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Old 6th Feb 2023, 10:21
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Yes, but I have never seen this. Depending on what part(s) of the surface, pivot and actuator linkage was lost; you might get :

ECAM Alert F/CTL - L(R) ELEV FAULT

which is a No Dispatch item. (These guys were already airborne though, I presume).
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Old 6th Feb 2023, 18:39
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Ok that might explain the ‘only left turns’ thing
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Old 7th Feb 2023, 18:08
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Originally Posted by Uplinker
These guys were already airborne though, I presume.
From what I gather from the various incomplete snippets of information, the damage happened either during taxi or the takeoff run, and the separation at rotation or very soon after. The departed elevator segment was recovered from airport property.
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