The Grounding of Airbus Planes - Will the Company Come to a Halt?

The Grounding of Airbus Planes - Will the Company Come to a Halt?
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Grounding Of Airbus Planes

Airbus is one of the major aircraft manufacturing companies of the world. Given its place in the aircraft manufacturing segment, the possibility of grounding Airbus planes would certainly come as a surprise to most of us. We look at the growth of Airbus from its inception to the gigantic proportions it has attained. We will also find out the truth behind the rumors of its carriers being grounded for safety reasons.

History of Airbus

Let us take a brief look at the origins of the Airbus company. About forty years ago, American companies dominated the aircraft manufacturing scenario, with big names such as Boeing, Lockheed, etc.

It was in this background that the Airbus Industrie was formally established as a Groupement d’Interet Economique (Economic Interest Group or GIE)1. This happened in the year 1970 on December 18. This was a joint government venture between France, UK and Germany. Later on it was rechristened as Airbus SAS towards the close of the 20th Century.

Since its inception as a GIE, the company has manufactured more than five thousand airbus planes and is almost at par with Boeing, the other aircraft manufacturing giant. The adjacent bar graph shows a relative comparison in terms of delivery rates between two major aviation sector giants, Boeing and Airbus from 1997-2010. Yet the company has been in the news for the wrong reasons in the recent past.

Accidents are not new in aviation history. Accidents are a part of any transportation medium, be it automobiles, ships, aircrafts or spacecrafts. Even the Airbus is not an exception to this rule. There is a long list of crashes, fatal accidents, near misses and so on, from the Airfrance Flight 296 to the recent horrible accident of Airblue Airbus A321 in Pakistan, resulting in the death of more than 150 passengers and crew members.

Yet it does not mean to say that accidents should be ignored or taken lightly. All accidents need to be probed for their cause and effects. This will help to avoid the future loss of human life and property.

The Possible Grounding of Airbus Planes

In tune with the above philosophy, there have been rumours that Airbus might be asked to ground all its aircrafts due to technical issues. Investigations are being made by the European Aviation Safety Agency and the US National Transportation Safety Board in this regard.

In a number of the accidents of the Airbus aircraft, several parts such as composite stabilizes, rudders, and couplers were found to be responsible. Investigations are going on into the engineering viability of using composite structures for critical parts such as the rudder.

The Rolls-Royce Issue

The Rolls Royce engine issue has also been in the news recently. The Airbus A380 is the largest passenger aircraft built to date. It met with a serious engine failure on 4th November 2010. A Qantas airline aircraft suffered engine damage soon after take off from Singapore and had to make an emergency landing.

One of the engines on the super jumbojet simply fell off. Its debris landed in the streets of Batam in Indonesia. This raised severe doubts about the Rolls Royce Trent engines used in these aircrafts.

A thorough check revealed that the fault could be traced to a set of mal-manufactured oil pipes, where the bores drilled were not aligned perfectly, which was the root cause of the failure. This mis-aligned oil pipe led to oil leakage and subsequent damage due to superheating in the turbine disc area.

Currently the matter seems to have been sorted out. The investigating authorities have been satisfied that no other major fault exists in these engines.

In the end it could be stated that the grounding of the entire fleet of such a huge company would not be an practical solution. It could lead to implications for the entire aviation sector. Yet, safety is the first and foremost priority of any government or authority. Hence whatever decision would be taken, should be in the best interest of all invovled parties to the case.

References - Images/Data/Information

Manufacturer’s Data (Airbus, Boeing)

Reuter’s News Agency

AviationExplorer Website

1 Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2137/85 on the European Economic Interest Grouping Implementation Act