Thursday, November 09, 2006

Airbus Aircraft Design Culture: Update

I've been following this since the Airbus 300 series airplane went down over NY right after the 9/11 attacks. Airbus and others insist that the pilots used too much control input to shear the vertical stabilizer off the fuselage. The question in my mind was and is: How is it even POSSIBLE to use too much control input?

I'm still waiting to see it explicitly stated, but I'm pretty certain Airbus used a McDonnell Douglas or maybe Boeing (now all Boeing so it doesn't matter which) proprietary design under license for the aircraft in question. I'm equally certain after reading several articles including the one linked in the header that Airbus chose NOT to implement the feature of the design that would have limited rudder deflection angles under the same conditions and prevented the crash. Why didn't Airbus think it was needed, when it was part of a proven design?

I'm not a huge fan of Airbus as I've readily acknowledged previously. But they may have a viable contender for the tanker replacement "KC-X" program since they are teamed with Northrop Grumman. An injection of common sense airplane savvy from Northrop Grumman could spill over to help other Airbus programs but significant cultural barriers would have to be broken down for that to happen. In any case, a USAF involvement could improve the Airbus passenger version similar to how improvements that created the KC-10 helped the DC-10/MD-11 airliners.

Full disclosure: I have deep vested interests in Northrop Grumman.

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