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March 26 update: Even if you believe that the recent airplane crash in the French Alps was a suicide mission, as now implied, this post is still worth your time due to the shocking state of these airplanes revealed in the EU Airworthiness Directives and the length of time given to correct potentially fatal problems, such as potential engine loss. The US has raised concerns about these airplanes, as well.
Airbus A320 D-AIPX image by Sebastien Mortier CC-BY-2.0 wikipedia flickr
D-AIPX, the Airbus A320, photo by Sebastien Mortier [1]
German Wings 9525 Crash site mts
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanwings_Flight_9525

Let’s face it, the airplane which went down in the French Alps was old. It took its first flight in November 1990. It wasn’t as old as most of the nuclear power stations in operation, which should give pause in the season of Three Mile Island (28 March), Chernobyl (28 April) and Fukushima (11 March), but it was old.

It would be frightening to drive a 1990 auto from Spain to Germany, but this was an airplane. One can read that the age doesn’t matter if it is properly repaired – but that’s just the problem isn’t it? It is also not certain that airplanes are a safer mode of transportation. One would have to look at distances people (or an individual) travel(s) by auto, train, bicycle, and foot to compare. Few use airplanes on a daily basis, if at all. Many travel by auto or train. One would also have to compare by location to have an idea of risk. Airplane risk is also totally out of passenger control.

This is, of course, what happens when everyone wants something for nothing – you get old airplanes (and old nuclear reactors) still operating. The shareholders want profit for doing nothing – they want the value of their stock to grow. The people buying the airplane tickets want the price as cheap as possible (and people want cheap electricity). So there is cost-cutting. Airplane tickets used to be very costly compared to wages and the quality was oh, so much better. (Nuclear Reactors were always costly to build with large price overruns and some were so poorly constructed that they couldn’t open them as nuclear power plants. The new nuclear reactors are also characterized by poor construction and cost overruns, but get government and ratepayer subsidies, as before.)

If you go to the European Airworthiness Directives web site, there are so many problems with these old airplanes that it’s hard to sort through them! There are also problems with quality of new bolts for some other airplane models. And, although compared to the US nuclear industry which still hasn’t addressed Fukushima directives 4 years on, the airplane repairs are to be speedy, if you look at the potentially deadly repercussions, you probably won’t feel comforted that they are not grounded for repairs if you intend to fly on one: http://ad.easa.europa.eu (That being said, we have no idea if the German owners of the airplane implemented all recommendations or not. Just because they are allowed to take a long time, doesn’t mean that they did, but means that they may have. It is doubtful, however, that they implemented the proposed directive.)

Everyone should be alarmed, as well, about the need to test all nuclear reactors for hydrogen, and other, damage to the reactor pressure vessels, which apparently isn’t being done and could lead to sudden failure and a major nuclear disaster: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/nuclear-reactor-cracks-widespread-disease-scourge-warns-nobel-in-chemistry-nominee/ In particular, Europe is still so impacted from Chernobyl and nuclear weapons testing that another major accident would probably result in the need to evacuate much of it, or at least not to grow food there. Everyone should be alarmed that nuclear reactors, mostly from the 1970s and 80s, are still operating, as they are subject to radiation damage, as well as routine age-environment related degradation. So, most are much older than these airplanes and they have been subjected to more damaging conditions.

Reading the list of “Airworthiness Directives” puts in mind Francis Cabrel’s song “J’ai peur de l’avion” (I’m afraid of airplanes) from his Sarbacane Album. He points out that one will crash, this might be it. He promises to go to church each Sunday if the airplane lands someplace other than in the tree branches. He swears that he will return home by foot. My related thought: Wouldn’t it have been better to make a three month pilgrimage by foot from Germany to Spain, as in the old days, than to lose one’s life? One alternative, of course, is to ground all airplanes until they are verified safe. (And to shut all nuclear reactors as Germany and Japan did, at least for safety checks, though permanently is needed.)

SOME OF THE AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVES WHICH COULD HAVE LED TO THE PLANE CRASH IN THE ALPS

This list is based on the crashed airplane model: Airbus A320-211. (It was registered as D-AIPX, flight GWI18G, which crashed on the 24 March 2015.) This list is incomplete, but gives some idea of the magnitude of the problem. (At least we think it is incomplete. There were so many we got dizzy, fed up and quit looking.)

NOTIFICATION OF A PROPOSAL TO ISSUE AN AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVE PAD No.: 15-022 Date: 04 March 2015

During certification structural fatigue tests, several cases of structural damage (cracks) have been found on keel beam side panels. Cracks were observed on both sides of the keel beam around the rivets below the center wing box between frame (FR) 40 and FR 42, and in part of the area of the upper elliptical cut out forward of FR 41.

This condition, if not detected and corrected, would adversely affect the structural integrity of the aeroplane.

To address this unsafe condition, DGAC France issued AD 2003-146 to require repetitive detailed inspections of the affected areas and, depending on findings, corrective action(s).

After that AD was issued, prompted by reported access difficulties and to allow extension of the interval between two consecutive inspections, Airbus validated an Eddy-current (EC) Non-Destructive Test (NDT) inspection. Consequently, EASA issued AD 2011-0134, retaining the requirements of DGAC France AD 2003-146, which was superseded, but to require repetitive special detailed (EC NDT) inspections (SDI) in lieu of detailed inspections.

Since EASA AD 2011-0134 was issued, Airbus issued Service Bulletin (SB) A320-53-1060 Revision 05 that includes repair instructions for cases where, during inspection, findings are made in Area A and repair must be done before next flight. The SB also indicates that post-mod 25716 aeroplanes do not need to have Area A inspected.

For the reasons described above, this AD retains the requirements of EASA AD 2011-0134, which is superseded, but requires to accomplish the inspections and repair instructions of Airbus SB A320-53-1060 Revision 05.
Effective Date: [TBD: 14 days after final AD issue date]
Required Action(s) and Compliance Time(s):
Required as indicated, unless already accomplished:
(1) Initially, within the compliance time(s) as specified in Table 1 of this AD, as applicable, and, thereafter, at intervals not exceeding 12 000 flight cycles (FC) or 26 700 flight hours (FH), whichever occurs first, accomplish a SDI (EC NDT) of the area A (except as specified in paragraph (2) of this AD) and area B, as defined in, and in accordance with the instructions of, Airbus SB A320-53-1060 Revision 05….” Read the rest here: http://ad.easa.europa.eu/blob/EASA_PAD_15_022.pdf/PAD_15-022_1

EASA EMERGENCY AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVE
AD No.: 2014-0266-E Date: 09 December 2014
ATA Airplane Flight Manual – Undue Activation of Alpha Protection – Emergency Procedure

An occurrence was reported where an Airbus A321 aeroplane encountered a blockage of two Angle Of Attack (AOA) probes during climb, leading to activation of the Alpha Protection (Alpha Prot) while the Mach number increased. The flight crew managed to regain full control and the flight landed uneventfully.

When Alpha Prot is activated due to blocked AOA probes, the flight control laws order a continuous nose down pitch rate that, in a worst case scenario, cannot be stopped with backward sidestick inputs, even in the full backward position. If the Mach number increases during a nose down order, the AOA value of the Alpha Prot will continue to decrease. As a result, the flight control laws will continue to order a nose down pitch rate, even if the speed is above minimum selectable speed, known as VLS.

This condition, if not corrected, could result in loss of control of the aeroplane.

To address this unsafe condition, Airbus have developed a specific Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM) procedure, which has been published in AFM Temporary Revision (TR) N° 502.

For the reasons described above, this AD requires amendment of the applicable AFM.

This is considered to be an interim action and further AD action may follow.

Effective Date: 11 December 2014
Required Action(s) and Compliance Time(s):

Required as indicated, unless accomplished previously:
(1) Before next flight after the effective date of this AD, amend the applicable AFM by inserting a copy of Airbus AFM A320 TR 502 “Abnormal V alpha Prot”, issue 1.
Alternatively, amending the applicable AFM can be accomplished by inserting of a copy of Appendix 1 of this AD into the Section Emergency Procedures.
(2) Concurrent with the AFM amendment as required by paragraph (1) of this AD, inform all flight crews and, thereafter, operate the aeroplane accordingly.” Read the rest here: http://ad.easa.europa.eu/blob/easa_ad_2014_0266_E.pdf/EAD_2014-0266-E_1

EASA AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVE, AD No.: 2015-0038, Date: 04 March 2015

ATA 71 Powerplant – Forward Engine Mount – Inspection
During a A320 Extended Service Goal (ESG) residual fatigue test, in which new loads were used, taking into account the results of the 2006 fleet survey, the CFM56-5A/5B forward engine mount experienced a failure before reaching the threshold/interval for the detailed inspection of that forward engine mount, as identified in Airbus A318/A319/A320/A321 Airworthiness Limitations Section (ALS) Part 2 (hereafter referred to in this AD as ‘the ALS’) task 712111-01. In case of total loss of the primary load path, the current maintenance requirements do not ensure the design integrity of the remaining structure.

This condition, if not corrected, could lead to in-flight loss of an engine, possibly resulting in reduced control of the aeroplane and injury to persons on the ground.

For the reasons described above, this AD requires implementation of a reduced threshold and interval for the detailed inspections (DET) of the forward engine mount on both right hand (RH) and left hand (LH) sides, as specified in the ALS, task 712111-01.

Once further investigations and test are completed, the threshold and interval of the ALS task 712111-01 will likely be modified accordingly.
Effective Date: 18 March 2015
Required Action(s) and Compliance Time(s):

Required as indicated, unless accomplished previously:

(1) Before exceeding 800 flight cycles (FC) since aeroplane first flight, or since last DET in accordance with the ALS, task 712111-01, as applicable, or within 800 FC after the effective date of this AD, whichever occurs later, and, thereafter, at intervals not to exceed 800 FC, accomplish a DET of the forward engine mount on the aeroplane, both RH and LH sides (see Note).” Read the rest here: http://ad.easa.europa.eu/blob/EASA_AD_2015_0038.pdf/AD_2015-0038_1

EASA AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVE
AD No.: 2015-0036 Date: 03 March 2015


ATA 53 Fuselage – Fuselage Skin Repairs – Inspection
Reason: During A320 family Extended Service Goal full scale fatigue tests, it was demonstrated that the inspection thresholds defined in the current Structural Repair Manual (SRM) for the A320 family skin repairs are insufficient to detect possible cracks becoming after repairs. The findings are limited to 1.2 mm fuselage skin and cover for all cut-out external repairs. The internal repairs are not affected.

This condition, if not detected and corrected, could affect the structural integrity of the fuselage at the repaired skin area(s).

To address this potential unsafe condition, Airbus issued Alert Operators Transmission (AOT) A53N007-14 to provide inspection instructions.

For the reasons described above, this AD requires a one-time inspection of the affected areas and, depending on findings, accomplishment of applicable repair instructions.

Effective Date: 17 March 2015
Required Action(s) and Compliance Time(s):

Required as indicated, unless accomplished previously:

(1) Within the compliance time defined in Airbus AOT A53N007-14, as applicable, or within 350 flight cycles after the effective date of this AD, whichever occurs later, identify whether any fuselage external skin (doubler) repairs have been accomplished on fuselage sections 11, 12, 13, 14, 16 and/or 17, and, for each of the repaired 1.2 mm fuselage skin areas, as applicable, accomplish an Ultrasonic (US) inspection from external, or a Low Frequency Eddy Current (LFEC) inspection from internal, in accordance with the instructions of Airbus AOT A53N007-14.

A review of aeroplane maintenance records is acceptable to make the identification of an affected repair, provided those records can be relied upon for the purpose of this requirement.

(2) As an alternative to the LFEC or US inspection as required by paragraph (1) of this AD, a one-time High Frequency Eddy Current (HFEC) inspection in accordance with Non-destructive Testing Manual (NTM) Task 51-10-08 in the cut-out surrounding fastener area (at and in front (~10-15mm) of the fastener row) can be accomplished, provided this is done after doubler removal and before new extended doubler installation, and within the compliance as specified in paragraph (1) of this AD.

(3) The inspection as required by paragraph (1) of this AD can be delayed, provided that repetitive Detailed Visual Inspections (DVI), or High Frequency Eddy Current (HFEC) inspections are accomplished within the compliance times defined in, and in accordance with the instructions of, Airbus AOT A53N007-14.

(4) If, during any US or LFEC inspection as required by paragraph (1) of this AD, or during the HFEC inspection as specified in paragraph (2) of this AD, or during any DVI or HFEC inspection as required by paragraph (3) of this AD, as applicable, any crack is found, before next flight, accomplish an applicable repair in accordance with the instructions of Airbus AOT A53N007-14.

Note: For an aeroplane inspected and/or repaired in accordance with the instructions of Airbus AOT A53N007-14, post-repair repetitive inspections as specified in the applicable Structural Repair Manual remain applicable for that aeroplane. Refer to paragraph (5) of this AD for post-repair inspection thresholds.

(5) From the AD effective date, in case a fuselage external skin (doubler) repair has to be accomplished, concurrently with accomplishment of the repair, update the post-repair inspection threshold(s) in accordance with the instructions provided in paragraph 4.1.1 of Airbus AOT A53N007-14″ Read the rest here: http://ad.easa.europa.eu/blob/EASA_AD_2015_0036.pdf/AD_2015-0036_1 CAN BE DELAYED!? WASN’T THE POINT THAT VISUAL INSPECTION WAS INADEQUATE? THIS SOUNDS LIKE THE US NRC!

EASA AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVE
AD No.: 2015-0021 Date: 13 February 2015

ATA 71 Powerplant – Aft Engine Mount Retainers – Inspection / Replacement
During in-service inspections, several aft engine mount retainers, fitted on aeroplanes equipped with CFM56-5A/5B engines, have been found broken. The results of the initial investigations highlighted that two different types of surface finish had been applied (respectively bright and dull material finishes), and that dull finish affects the strength of the retainer with regard to fatigue properties of the part. The pins which attach the engine link to the aft mount are secured by two nuts, which do not have a self-locking feature; this function is provided by the retainer brackets. In case of failure of the retainer bracket, the locking feature of the nuts of the inner and outer pins is lost; as a result, these nuts could subsequently become loose.

In case of full loss of the nuts, there is the potential to also lose the pins, in which case the aft mount link will no longer be secured to the aft engine mount. The same locking feature is used for the three link assemblies of the aft mount.

This condition, if not detected and corrected, could lead to in-flight loss of an aft mount link, possibly resulting in damage to the aeroplane and injury to person on the ground.
….
Required as indicated, unless accomplished previously:

Restatement of the requirements of EASA AD 2013-0050:

Note: AD 2013-0050 used the acronym DVI instead of the current DET. This does not constitutes a technical or requirement change.

(1) Within 3 months after the 19 March 2013 [the effective date of EASA AD 2013-0050], accomplish a DET of the aft engine mount retainers in accordance with the instructions of Airbus Alert Operators Transmission (AOT) A71N001-12 Revision 01…” http://ad.easa.europa.eu/blob/EASA_AD_2015_0021.pdf/AD_2015-0021_1 THEY ARE GIVING THEM 3 MONTHS TO MAKE SURE THE ENGINE DOESN’T FALL OUT?

EASA AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVE
AD No.: 2014-0275R1 Date: 19 January 2015

….
Reports have been received indicating premature ageing of certain passenger chemical oxygen generators, Part Number (P/N) 117042-XX, manufactured by B/E Aerospace. Some operators reported that when they tried to activate generators, some older units failed to activate. Given the number of failed units reported, all the generators manufactured in 1999, 2000 and 2001 must be considered unreliable.

This condition, if not corrected, could lead to failure of the generator to activate and consequently not deliver oxygen during an emergency, possibly resulting in injury to passengers.

To address this potential unsafe condition, Airbus issued Alert Operators Transmission (AOT) A35N006-14, making reference to B/E Aerospace Service Information Letter (SIL) D1019-01 (currently at Revision 1) and B/E Aerospace Service Bulletin (SB) 117042-35-001.

Consequently, EASA issued AD 2014-0275 to require identification and replacement of the affected oxygen generators.

Since that AD was issued, operator feedback indicated that the 30 days period for the identification of all affected generators was insufficient.
SA-Internet/Intranet.

For the reason described above, this AD is revised to extend the compliance time for identification to align with the time for removal from service. This revised AD also introduces an editorial change in paragraph (2), not affecting the technical content.

Pending the on-going investigation, this AD is still considered to be an interim action and further AD action may follow.

Effective Date: Revision 1: 19 January 2015
Original issue: 24 December 2014

Required Action(s) and Compliance Time(s):
Required as indicated, unless accomplished previously:
(1) Within the compliance time specified in Table 1 of this AD, as applicable, identify the date of manufacture (see Appendix 1 of this AD where this is located) of each passenger oxygen generator, having a P/N as listed in Table 1 of this AD, in accordance with the instructions of Airbus AOT A35N006-14. A review of aeroplane maintenance records is acceptable to make this identification, provided those records can be relied upon for the purpose of this requirement.

(2) Within the compliance time specified in Table 1 of this AD, as applicable, remove each affected passenger oxygen generator from service and replace it with a serviceable unit in accordance with the instructions of Airbus AOT A35N006-14 and/or, for 15 min generators, in accordance with the instructions of B/E Aerospace SB 117042-35-001.

B/E Aerospace SIL D1019-01 Revision 1 provides instructions for the activation and the disposal of a removed passenger oxygen generator. Airbus AOT A35N006-14 (Appendix 1) includes instructions for reporting the results of the activation (including no findings) of removed units. The data gathered from those results will be analysed to determine further action(s), if any.

Table 1 – Replacement of Passenger Oxygen Generators

P/N Compliance Time
…..
For units manufactured in 1999, before exceeding 15 years since date of manufacture, or within 30 days after 24 December 2014 [the effective date of the original issue of this AD], whichever occurs later

For units manufactured in 2000, before exceeding 14,5 years since date of manufacture, or within 6 months after 24 December 2014 [the effective date of the original issue of this AD], whichever occurs later

For units manufactured in 2001, before exceeding 14 years since date of manufacture, or within 12 months after 24 December 2014 [the effective date of the original issue of this AD], whichever occurs later

(3) From 24 December 2014 [the effective date of the original issue of this AD], it is allowed to install on any aeroplane a passenger oxygen generator with a P/N as listed in Table 1 of this AD, provided that the passenger oxygen generator has a manufacturing date of 2005 or later” http://ad.easa.europa.eu/blob/easa_ad_2014_0275_R1.pdf/AD_2014-0275R1_1 THIS CERTAINLY SOUNDS LIKE NUCLEAR REGULATORY EXTENSIONS. HOWEVER, AN AIRPLANE CRASH IS A PERSONAL OR COMMUNITY TRAGEDY. A NUCLEAR ACCIDENT IS AN ONGOING TRAGEDY WITH LOCAL, NATIONAL AND EVEN INTERNATIONAL REPERCUSSIONS.

Landing Gear Directive from last year: http://www.casa.gov.au/ADFiles/over/a320/2014-0141.pdf

Historic and Current US concerns about this or similar airplanes:
“70 FR 68384 – AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVES; AIRBUS MODEL A319-100, A320-200, A321-100, AND A321-200 SERIES AIRPLANES….
“This proposed AD results from reports of corrosion in the lower part of the lavatory walls due to water ingress. We are proposing this AD to detect and correct corrosion and damage on the lower part of the lavatory walls, which could compromise the structural integrity of the cabin attendant seat attachments, and cause injury to the cabin attendants during a crash landing.” http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/FR-2005-11-10/05-22443

From last year:
“We are proposing this AD to prevent fatigue cracking, accidental damage, or corrosion in principal structural elements, and possible failure of certain life limited parts, which could result in reduced structural integrity of the airplane. Since these actions impose an additional burden over that proposed in the NPRM, we are reopening the comment period to allow the public the chance to comment on these proposed changes.”
https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/05/28/2014-12251/airworthiness-directives-airbus-airplanes

SAFETY IS “BURDENSOME”. NO ONE CARES ABOUT LIVES.

According to the New York Times, since 1988, A320 airplanes have been involved in 12 fatal accidents. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/25/world/europe/germanwings-crash.html?_r=0 (“Germanwings Crash in French Alps Kills 150; Cockpit Voice Recorder Is Found”By NICOLA CLARK and DAN BILEFSKYMARCH 24, 2015)

[1] Image Credit: “Airbus A320 (D-AIPX) of Germanwings taking off from Barcelona Airport. This aircraft crashed on 24 March 2015 in the French Alps as Germanwings Flight 9525, 10. Mai 2014, 10:30 320 GERMANWINGS D-AIPX 147 10 05 14 BCN RIP” by Sebastien Mortier https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

NOTE THAT TO THE BEST OF OUR KNOWLEDGE THE ABOVE LIST IS ACCURATE AND APPLIES TO AIRBUS A320-211, as well as some other airplanes. HOWEVER, IT IS (ALWAYS) BEST TO CHECK THE ORIGINAL WEB SITE, IF YOU NEED TO BE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN OF THE INFO. ERRORS HAPPEN, WHICH IS WHY WE DO NOT NEED NUCLEAR ANYTHING. ADDITIONALLY WE HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF HOW MANY CHECKS-REPAIRS ON THIS LIST WERE OR WERE NOT DONE BY THE AIRPLANE COMPANY. This is meant as a thought-provoking exercise, period.