Are the aircraft rolling off the production lines at European aircraft manufacturer Airbus unsafe? You would almost be forgiven for thinking so in the wake of the third Airbus crash this year and the hundreds of lives lost. The latest Airbus crash occurred en route from Yemen to the Comoros Islands, with 153 people on board the plane.
This year's first Airbus accident occurred in New York where a close encounter with a flock of birds caused both motors to fail. Fortunately it ended in a successful emergency landing in the Hudson River, with no serious casualties. One month ago, an Air France Airbus went down over the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 people on board. And now an Airbus has crashed into the Indian Ocean near the Comoros archipelago.
Statistics undermine emotions
Statistically, there is nothing wrong with Airbus. The facts and figures contradict the emotional response to such a dramatic series of events. Airbus builds particularly safe planes which, thanks to their modern design and state-of-the-art electronics, fly many millions of kilometres each year without any problems. In this regard, it performs no better and no worse than its US rival Boeing. Rumours that the Airbus's fly-by-wire system and advanced electronics stop pilots from intervening in an emergency are unfounded.
Flying an Airbus on manual is difficult but perfectly possible. In its latest models, Boeing makes use of the same systems. In recent years, the number of aviation accidents has been split evenly between the two manufacturers. Accidents involving Ilyushins and Tupolevs are more common, but this is mainly the result of poor maintenance in the countries where these planes are used.
Extreme weather conditions
There are a number of similarities between the crash of Air France flight AF 447 and Yemenia flight IY626. In both cases, extreme weather conditions had a major part to play. In the case of the Air France flight, the plane is thought to have flown into a heavy electrical storm. While it would have been better for the pilots to fly around the storm, the weather system is believed to have been so extensive that this could have involved a detour of as much as 1000 kilometres.
The Yemenia Airbus also hit bad weather as it approached the airport at Moroni. The nearest alternative - Dzaoudzi-Pamandzi Airport - was several hundred kilometres away and has a very short runway. In this case too, the pilots opted to brave the extreme conditions.
Sixty percent of all accidents take place on the approach or landing. In 56 percent of cases, the pilots make an error of judgement, 17 percent are due to technical malfunctions on board the aircraft and in 13 percent of cases, the primary cause of the crash is bad weather.
The distribution of the wreckage over a wide area suggests that the aircraft disintegrated at high altitude. Given that an explosion has more or less been ruled out, the only possible cause remaining is that the aircraft endured a massive amount of excess pressure. This could well have been caused by an extremely ferocious electrical storm, possibly in combination with flying at much too high a speed.
|Air France crash search called off
The search for victims and wreckage of the Air France Airbus in the Atlantic Ocean has now been called off. The hunt for the aircraft's flight recorders - or black boxes as they are often known - has proved fruitless. The devices are no longer transmitting a signal.