Dassault Falcon 7X flight suspension partly lifted

June 17, 2011

A Dassault-owned Falcon 7X arrives at Rotterdam Airport (EHRD) on the day following the lifting of the ban (Photo: Harro Ranter, 17 June 2011)

On May 26, 2011 all flights involving Dassault Falcon 7X jets were prohibited following the EASA’s  issuance of  emergency AD 2011-0102-E. This suspension is now lifted for certain aircraft as of June 16, 2011.

The suspension of flight operations was considered to be an interim measure pending the outcome of an investigation into a serious incident involving an uncontrolled pitch trim runaway during descent.

The initial results of the investigations are showing that there was a production defect in the Horizontal Stabilizer Electronic Control Unit (HSECU) which could have contributed to the cause of the event.  One specific HSECU is potentially affected by this production defect. Investigations are continuing to confirm this cause.

In the meantime, to allow re-starting flight operations and providing protection against further pitch trim runaway events, Dassault Aviation have developed two modifications which are implemented through accomplishment of Dassault Service Bulletin (SB) F7X-211. In addition, it has determined that the flight envelope must be restricted, compared to the original certified flight envelope.

For aeroplanes equipped with HSECU P/N 051244-02, this AD, which supersedes EASA AD 2011-0102-E, requires:

  1. accomplishment of two Dassault Aviation modifications,
  2. amending the AFM and installing a placard in the cockpit,
  3. amending the Minimum Equipment List (MEL), and
  4. implementing an operational test of the HSTA electric motors reversion relays.

For aeroplanes equipped with HSECU P/N 051244-04, the prohibition of flights is maintained.

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Download PDF: EASA EAD 2011-0114-E

EASA grounds all Dassault Falcon 7X aircraft pending incident investigation

May 26, 2011

A Falcon 7X jet (photo: Jerome K. /CC: by-nc-nd)

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive (AD), prohibiting flight operations of Dassault Falcon 7X jets.

The AD is considered to be an interim measure pending the outcome of an investigation into a serious incident currently carried out by the manufacturer. Further AD action is expected to follow when additional information is available.

The incident involved a Falcon 7X which experienced an uncontrolled pitch trim runaway during descent. The crew succeeded in recovering a stable situation and performed an uneventful landing. Analysis of the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and Fault History Database (FHDB) confirmed the event, but did not allow explaining the origin of the pitch trim runaway.

This condition, if occurring again, could lead to loss of control of the aeroplane. To address this potential unsafe condition, Dassault Aviation has proposed to EASA to prohibit, from the effective date of this AD, any flight operations of Falcon 7X aeroplanes, to which EASA agreed by issuing this AD.

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NTSB progress report on United Airlines 497 runway excursion at New Orleans

April 8, 2011

The National Transportation Safety Board continues to make progress in its investigation of United Airlines flight 497, which returned to the airport on April 4, 2011, in New Orleans, shortly after take-off due to automated warnings of smoke in the equipment bay. The airplane’s nose wheel exited the side of runway 19 upon completing the landing roll and an emergency evacuation was conducted.

The NTSB team, comprised of 3 NTSB investigators and representatives from the designated parties and advisors, arrived on scene April 4 to document and examine the aircraft and retrieve the data and voice recorders. Two other NTSB investigators, specializing in operational factors and maintenance factors, traveled to various locations to review pertinent documentation and records and conduct interviews.

After documenting the condition of the equipment in the electronics bay, investigators applied limited electrical power to various systems on the airplane. At this time, the preliminary examination has not revealed any signs of burning, indications of smoke or other anomalous system findings.

The NTSB operations group completed interviews of the flight crew yesterday. The crew indicated that, at about 4000 feet, the airplane’s electronic centralized aircraft monitoring (ECAM) system provided an autothrottle-related message, then an avionics smoke warning message, accompanied by instructions to land. Despite receiving this message, neither crew member recalled smelling smoke or fumes during the flight.

The captain indicated that he used the electronic checklist for the avionics system smoke warning indication, which included shutting down some of the airplane’s electrical system. The crew reported that the first officer’s display screens went blank, the ECAM messages disappeared, the cockpit to cabin intercom stopped functioning, and the air-driven emergency generator deployed. The captain said that he took control of the airplane at this point and managed the radios while the first officer opened the cockpit door to advise the flight attendants of the emergency and their return to New Orleans airport.

The crew also noted to investigators that they requested runway 10 for landing, but were told the runway was not available due to the presence of construction vehicles. The captain said that he was able to use the airspeed, altimeter, and attitude information on his primary flight display during the return to the airport, and that he ordered an evacuation after landing.

As previously reported, the airplane’s forward right slide did not properly inflate during the emergency evacuation. After examining the evacuation slides, investigators found that the aspirator for the forward right-hand slide was partially blocked. The aspirator component is the mechanism for inflating the slide during an emergency evacuation. Investigators have retained the slide for further evaluation.

Preliminary reports provided to investigators suggest that the flight attendants did not smell or see smoke in the cabin, but observed the cabin lights turn off and the intercom system cease to function during the flight. Interviews of the cabin crew will be conducted after the investigators complete their on-scene work to more thoroughly document the cabin crew’s observations and communications throughout the flight and emergency evacuation.

The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) arrived at NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C. on April 5 and were successfully downloaded. The CVR is of good quality and captured approximately 7 minutes and 30 seconds of the incident flight. The FDR contained in excess of 25 hours of data and captured approximately 18 minutes of data relevant to the incident flight. Both the CVR and FDR stopped recording data prior to landing.

Investigators will remain on scene to complete their evaluation of the airplane and documentation of other factors in the incident.

FAA will mandate inspections for early models of 737 aircraft

April 5, 2011

The U.S. FAA issues an emergency directive that will require operators of specific early Boeing 737 models to conduct initial and repetitive electromagnetic inspections for fatigue damage. This action will initially apply to a total of approximately 175 aircraft worldwide, 80 of which are U.S.-registered aircraft. Most of the aircraft in the U.S. are operated by Southwest Airlines.

The FAA airworthiness directive will require initial inspections using electromagnetic, or eddy-current, technology in specific areas of the aircraft fuselage on certain Boeing 737 aircraft in the -300, -400 and -500 series that have accumulated more than 30,000 flight cycles. It will then require repetitive inspections at regular intervals.

In  November 2010, the FAA published a rule designed specifically to address widespread fatigue damage in aging aircraft. The rule requires aircraft manufacturers to establish a number of flight cycles or hours a plane can operate and be free from fatigue damage. The rule requires aircraft manufacturers to incorporate the limits into their maintenance programs.

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