Boeing Company's 787 Dreamliner jets are made up of composite parts to a greater extent than any airliner that preceded them. The heavy reliance on carbon-plastic parts may now pose a threat of aviation accidents as the aircraft are showing signs of stress in the fuselage. Boeing insists the problems are easily repairable and hopes to avoid further delays in the production of Dreamliners in 2012. So far, the five Dreamliners currently in use have suffered no failures and are operating as expected.
The A380 had a tumultuous beginning, suffering significant delays before finally beginning passenger flights in 2007. Last month, technicians discovered numerous cracks in the wing ribs of an A380 that had been grounded after having an engine disintegrate in 2010. To prevent an airline accident, the European Aviation Safety Agency ordered roughly 100 of the aircraft inspected and repaired. On Wednesday, Qantas workers found similar cracks in the wing rib feet of one of their A380s and ordered the plane grounded. This has prompted questions over how widespread the cracking problem is and what threat, if any, that poses to passengers and flight crew operating the planes.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released information from the investigation into the circumstances of the second-worst airline disaster in U.S. history that sheds new light onto its causes. American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into a residential suburb of New York City shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy Intl. Airport on November 12, 2001. Flight 587 was operated on an Airbus A300-605R, a variant of the A300-600 series aircraft, the second most popular model of commercial aircraft behind Boeing's 757. According to the NTSB, a design flaw in the rudder of Airbus A300-600 series aircraft makes the rudder pedals extremely sensitive at high speeds. Pilots who are unaware of this sensitivity and apply too much force can unintentionally cause the rudder panel on the jet's tail to rock violently back and forth, which, according to the NTSB's analysis, can create enough force to break a jet apart midair. A rudder is a movable panel on the fin that rises from the tail of a jet, and it is designed to keep a jet pointed straight in a cross wind or while flying on one engine.