© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Airbus logo is seen at the entrance of a building in Toulouse, France, March 11, 2021. REUTERS / Stephane Mahe
By Tim Hepher
PARIS (Reuters) – Regulators have called for tighter controls when removing certain Airbus jets from pandemic storage, following erroneous cockpit readings that may suggest blocked sensors.
Pilots rely on speed readings derived from external probes called Pitot tubes, which can be blocked by insect nests or dirt if not properly sealed during storage.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said in a safety directive covering the Airbus A320 family that “an increasing number of operational disruptions have been reported due to speed deviations” during their back in the air.
A spokesperson said the events included commercial flights and, in most cases, led to an aborted takeoff. “EASA has had no reports of the resulting injuries, aircraft or system issues,” she said.
When asked if any passengers had been on board, an Airbus spokesperson said there had been no outage between passenger, cargo or technical control flights.
The reports prompted Airbus to run further computer simulations that suggest issues with two out of three sensors may affect the aircraft’s stability during take-off, although none of these events occurred in operation, said EASA.
The Airbus spokesperson said these follow-up actions were preventive and safety was its top priority.
EASA first reported last August an “alarming” increase in the overall number of cases of unreliable indications in the cockpit during the first flight of jets leaving storage. He called on operators of all makes and models of passenger aircraft to be vigilant.
The unprecedented number of planes grounded as lockdowns blocked air travel – reaching two-thirds of the world’s fleet at one point – had already created a spike in problems as airlines began to put them back into service. last year.
Pilot rust, maintenance errors and a loss of expertise in the supply chain due to job cuts have also raised concerns.
Airbus says it has set up a COVID-19 safety task force aimed at safely restarting airline operations at factories.
Boeing (NYSE 🙂 Co previously said extensive preparations needed to be made to return the jets to service from long-term storage.
Blocked pitot tubes, which are a common hazard on most civilian and military aircraft, are just one item on a list of potential snags after months of storage – along with rodents, bird nests and even snakes and scorpions in desert parking lots.
The ducts that carry air from the front of most engines to the cabin air conditioning systems can also be contaminated.
Airbus has stepped up audits of its supply chain following the crisis. In March, it warned suppliers of the risks of improper storage or corrosion of parts, industry sources said.
He also sounded the alarm on a range of risks, including “foreign object damage” caused by parts or tools lying around unnoticed due to greater social distancing in factories.
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