May 13, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: TODD WISSING
Jamaica, NY (May 13, 2002) A300 pilots receive FAA response to letter concerning safety of A300; say it "falls far short" of addressing the issues raised by NTSB Safety Recommendation of February 8, 2002. Full response to follow. Twenty-thousand members of Coalition of Airline Pilots Association (CAPA) join A300 pilots in calling for "immediate NDI inspections" on all A300. Over 200 American pilots join with original group, including 50% of New York A300 pilots, in call for NDI. Pilots reject Airbus' characterization of "emotional" response, point to overwhelming data supporting their claims.
The A300-600 Pilots who sent a 73-page document to the NTSB and the FAA expressing concerns about certification standards, rudder design and composite inspections of large aircraft, and other issues dealing with the A300 specifically, are in receipt of the April 26, 2002 response letter by Mr. John J. Hickey of the FAA.
"Mr. Hickey's 3 page response falls far short of adequately addressing some of the significant safety concerns expressed over a month ago regarding issues raised as a result of the accident of American Airlines 587. A formal response is being prepared to address all these concerns and will be completed shortly," said Captain Robert Tamburini, on e of the signatories.
While the response is being written, the pilots point out that the 20,000 members of the Coalition of Airline Pilots Association (CAPA), along with the pilot unions of Fed Ex and UPS, have joined their call for NDI inspections on all A300s.
"The only reliable method for detecting
defects or "hidden damage" is to perform sophisticated
non-destructive type examinations, employing the use of ultrasonics,
thermography or holography....Therefore, CAPA urges the FAA to
require immediate comprehensive inspection of theA300-600 and
A310 fleet using these composite-industry recommended methods
for detecting internal flaws or hidden damage," said CAPA
President Captain Robert Miller.
The pilots urged that technology be employed to ensure the immediate and ongoing structural integrity of the load-bearing vertical stabilizer of the A300-600. A significant body of evidence-backed by experts from MIT, NASA, the USAF and former NTSB officials-- shows that visual inspections are inadequate given the industry's lack of full understanding of various features of the material.
The pilots refer to three studies since
1992, which in part say:
--"sensitivity and reliability of crack detection need an order-of-magnitude improvement. Nondestructive inspection techniquesare not well developed in comparison for those of metallic structures"and that "much of the damageoccurs below the surface of the structure and can, therefore, not be detected by visual methods" "Visual inspections can beconsiderably more subjective than other NDE techniquestherefore improvements in NDE standards and methods are critical"
--"major issues that continue to limit the effectiveness of an aircraft maintenance program are poor structural inspection standards, inadequate defect indication interpretation, unreliable inspection techniques" and that "the leadership of the FAA and the continued participation of airline and manufacturers in developing and implementing improved maintenance and inspection methods is crucial."
--A 1996 study charged the FAA to "Supportthe development of cost-effective, quantitative NDE methodologies for in-service inspection of airframe materials and structures. And that "particular attention should be given to rapid, wide-area inspection with limited or one-sided access.
--The most recent report, written by NASA in 2001, states that "aerospace structural designs do not have a large factor of safety to accommodate any deleterious structural behavior"and that "the initiation and growth of material level damage and the failure modes of composite structures are not well understood and cannot be predicted analytically. In addition, NDE experts should be part of the collaborative engineering team so that inspectability is built into the structural design."
"It appears that some significant recommendations that came out of these studies have apparently gone unheeded. As such, the industry now finds itself in a position of playing catch-up on the development of appropriate NDE inspections, yet continues to cling to the position that visual inspections are adequate," Tamburini said.
Recently, Airbus Industries spokesmen made a statement accusing the pilots of "having an emotional reaction" to an accident investigation "which is based on facts.