Tails You Lose! The Carbon Fibre Concerns in Aircraft

The launch of the Airbus A350 aircraft, preceded by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner are set to usher in a new era of travel luxury, space and eco-friendly aircraft, following the development of innovative technologies.

One such innovation is the development of a carbon-fibre composite, which it is said, will usher in a new ‘economy’ to the world’s airlines; lighter, stronger and more fuel efficient aircraft. There has been a recent report that a recent test of carbon-fibre sheet/moulding production, has successfully produced a large one single piece of carbon-fibre; the implications being that it is possible to produce a fuselage or an entire wing from one production line.

However, there is a slight blot on this technological horizon. The New Scientist reported (22/11/07), that a Canadian airliner, an Airbus A 310, suffered a major flight incident, when the rudder of the aircraft broke off whilst on a flight from Cuba to Canada. Miraculously the skill of the crew managed to bring the aircraft down to a safe landing, without any injury to passengers or crew.

The Canadian Transportation Safety Board carried out a full investigation, discovering a serious safety issue during the maintenance of aircraft . Tap testing used to check for weaknesses or corrosion, missed small gaps which would ordinarily be found on traditional materials. The Report suggested that a ‘twanging test’, using lasers to produce high resolution echoes, could be the answer.

In the rush toward new technologies, the question must be asked; how are these new products tested before delivery, and how are maintenance crews trained, or is this a factor we have to re-consider when another jetliner suffers a similar calamity?

This article first appeared in the Travel-Zine of HolidayTraveWatch; Get'Away - Your Route to Travel Rights - Issue 6 - May 2008

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