Thursday, May 19, 2016

June 19, 2009
By Henry Blodget

As soon as (click here) the photo appeared of Air France 447's vertical stabilizer floating in the Atlantic, concerns arose that the crash might have been caused by another Airbus plane tail snapping off in mid-air.
If so, this would be the latest in a long string of tail problems for Airbus.  And the problems could be extremely expensive to fix.
The crash of an Airbus 300 just after takeoff at JFK in 2001 was the result of the stabilizer snapping off.  The NTSB investigation eventually blamed the pilots for overreacting to wake turbulence and hitting the rudder pedals too hard.  Pilots have long been skeptical of this conclusion, however, especially as other Airbus rudder problems have occurred over the years (planes suddenly rolling or pitching down as the computers controlling the rudder went haywire and triggered "uncommanded" movements.)
Airbus tails are designed differently than Boeing tails (composites versus metal, etc.), and Airbuses are "fly-by-wire" aircraft that don't have direct hydraulic connections between the cockpit controls and the flaps, rudder, and other flight controls.  Some suspect that the AF 447 crash and other Airbus problems may be the result of a computer problem or other design flaw....