UPDATED – SEE BOTTOM OF POST FOR recent FAA ADs for the A330!!!
The Air France disaster should be watched very closely as there are numerous political implications in the aircraft industry. The Australian is reporting investigators may be looking at the Airbus Air Data Inertial Reference Unit (ADIRU) System that sent a Qantas A330 on a wild ride over Western Australia last year.
The Qantas incident last October, and another in December last year also involving an Airbus 330 near Western Australia, involved a problem with a unit called an air data inertial reference unit, which prompted flight control computers to twice pitch down the nose of one of the jets.
Fast action by the crew limited the extent of the plane’s fall but 14 people were seriously injured.
The incidents raised questions about a potential wider problem with ADIRUs, which collect raw data on parameters such as air speed, altitude and angle of attack, and process the information before sending it to flight computers. They led to European authorities issuing a global alert to A330 operators.
After the Air France disaster, The Seattle Times reported yesterday that experts were already examining these malfunctions…
…There are more than 600 A330s in service with 72 operators around the world. Between them, they have logged 13 million flight hours and 3.3 million flights. Notable incidents include the Qantas upset, a crash soon after take-off during Airbus flight trials in 1994 that cost the lives of seven crew, and a Dragonair encounter in 2003 in which severe turbulence injured 15.
But what had until now been the most spectacular incident occurred in 2001 when an A330-200 glided for 120km without power and landed safely in The Azores after it ran out of fuel over the Atlantic.
What happened in the latest incident is still in the realm of speculation but experts and pilots doubt a lightning strike alone would have brought down the Air France plane. Planes are often struck by lightning — estimates are that jetliners average one to two hits a year — and it is rarely disastrous…
UPDATE: ADDED (HT KeyLargo – FreeRepublic)
Air France Flight 447: A detailed meteorological analysis
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Aviation Administration
Recent Airworthiness Directives
AD 2008-06-25 effective April 23, 2008
Two A330 operators have reported that the guide shaft of the Refuel Isolation Valve has been broken away from the main casting and entered the fuel tank. The Supplier Investigation evidenced that water builds-up in the cavity of the Refuel Isolation Valve and freezes during flight. When refuel pressure is applied to the piston, the ice restricts the piston travel on one side leading to an asymmetric movement of the piston resulting in breakage of the guide shaft. A non-bonded metallic object within the fuel tank can result [in] a potential ignition source, which in combination with a lightning strike constitutes an unsafe condition. For the reasons described above, this Airworthiness Directive (AD) requires replacement of the affected Refuel Isolation Valve with a more robust valve similar to that designed for the A380.
AD 2008-18-03 effective October 14, 2008
During manufacturing of A330/A340 aircraft framework, cracks have been found on Frame (FR) 12, left (LH) and right (RH) sides. It has been confirmed that a defect of the FR12 forming tool press is the root cause of the cracks. If undetected such damage could affect, after propagation, the structural integrity of the aircraft.
AD 2009-04-07 effective March 5, 2009
An A330 aircraft experienced a sudden [uncommanded] nose down order [event] while in cruise. This order was preceded by an automatic autopilot disconnection and triggering of the “NAV IR1 FAULT” Electronic Centralised Aircraft Monitor (ECAM) Caution. An A330 aircraft experienced a sudden [uncommanded] nose down order [event] while in cruise. This order was preceded by an automatic autopilot disconnection and triggering of the “NAV IR1 FAULT” Electronic Centralised Aircraft Monitor (ECAM) Caution. Investigations highlighted that at time of the event the Air Data Reference 1 (ADR) part of ADIRU1 [Air Data Inertial Reference Unit] was providing erroneous and temporary wrong parameters in a random manner. This abnormal behaviour of the ADR1 led to several consequences such as unjustified stall and over speed warnings, loss of attitude information on Captain Primary Flight Display (PFD) and several ECAM warnings. Among the abnormal parameters, the provided Angle of Attack (AoA) value was such that the flight control computers commanded a sudden nose down aircraft movement, which constitutes an unsafe condition.