An Emergency Airworthiness Directive is the ultimate CAA power
EASA, CASA and CAA New Zealand ground and then reverse GA8 fleet
Standard is ambiguous
A little more than a week ago, only five days after a crash, EASA and the Civil Aviation Authorities of Australia (state of design) and New Zealand exercised their extraordinary power to ground the GippsAero GA8 Airvan. Their Emergency Airworthiness Directives cited no known flaw in the aircraft design
The question was and still is, what must a CAA know in order to ground all aircraft of a specific model?
Here is what CASA (the Australian CAA) said in releasing its Emergency AD:
Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) said the precautionary suspension was triggered by initial information that the plane had broken up in flight.
However, it had since received information that there was no evidence of a potential unsafe condition associated with the aircraft, it added.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said CASA had informed it that an inspection of the crashed plane showed it appeared to have been exposed to aerodynamic loads beyond certification levels.
In a statement, Graeme Harris, the director civil aviation in New Zealand, said travelers, operators and pilots of the country’s 21 affected aircraft could now be assured that concerns expressed after the accident had been tackled.
“We will continue to monitor the investigation into the GA8 accident and will take appropriate action should any related safety issues become apparent,” he added.
So, a report of a crash of an aircraft with a history of nineteen years of operations WITHOUT A STRUCTURAL FAILURE justifies a grounding.
So what standard is being applied to 238 of the world’s largest airliner which seats 525 passengers?
Tiny cracks have been discovered in the wings of a number of Airbus A380 superjumbo jets. A total of 25 early-production A380 aircraft requiring inspection have been identified. The planes up for inspection belong to Qantas (apparently the first to become aware of the issue), Air France, Lufthansa, Singapore Air and Emirates.
Forbes.com contacted the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) concerning the reported wing cracks. According to an EASA spokesperson, the issue concerns “what to date has been the discovery of relatively minor cracking in the outer wing spars of the A380.”
In response, EASA published a proposed Airworthiness Directive (AD) that would mandate inspections that Airbus will announce in a service bulletin. According to EASA, “Initially the first 25 aircraft will be inspected and the data from those inspections will be further analyzed. Any aircraft found with cracking will be repaired and returned to service…The measures being taken ensure the safety of the fleet.” Initial inspections and repairs are expected to be scheduled during the heavy maintenance checks that take place after 12 years in service. The EASA spokesperson said that there should not be a significant impact on normal operations.
An Airbus spokesperson confirmed that “small cracks have been found on the outer rear wing spars of early production A380 aircraft. We have identified the issue, and have designed an inspection and repair scheme. We are supporting the EASA decision to issue an airworthiness directive…to inspect the first 25 aircraft in operation.”
As opposed to an aircraft with no structural issues, the A380’s wings have been a source of concerns for seven years:
Airbus Found Reason Why A380 Wing Cracks are Propagating. Why didn’t the Certification Process catch this Issue?
The risks associated with a small aircraft carrying few passengers, as measured by possible impact on the ground, would appear to be significantly less than the behemoth contacting the terrain. EASA made it clear that it was comfortable with the as-of-yet-undefined parameters of the A380 inspections.
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