Aviation Safety Lesson to be Learned from Recent A-319 Incident

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ARTICLE: Airbus should consider redesigning aircraft after maintenance failure led to Heathrow emergency landing, says safety chief Gunther Matschnigg


Each aviation accident or incident poses an opportunity to learn. The Daily Mail reports on a flight which had to be returned to an airport because the mechanics, having performed fairly routine maintenance, failed to fully close the cowling which surrounds the engine. Clearly, that was a minor error, but it created a potential catastrophe. This provides an important learning opportunity related to human factors.

Mr. Matschnigg pointed out that 32 times before there have been reports that the same latches have not been properly closed before return to service. He also suggests that there is a plausible reason for this error—in order for the Aviation Maintenance Technician to determine whether the fastening is closed, he or she must either lie on her/his back or crouch under the engine. Neither of which is conducive to assuring that this is properly secured. Airbus is quoted as saying that the number of incidents (32) does not merit redesign.

Human factors’ theory would take offense at such a response and it is fair to presume that the design engineers at McDonnell Douglas, in retrospect, would have wanted to create a new mechanism indicating that the DC-10 cargo hatch was closed.

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