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Friday, 13 March 2009

Spirit of enterprise not dead yet

It is good to see that in these dificult times, there are still people willing to take a measured risk. I refer of course to the world's airlines who will continue to fly Boeing 777's despite a known fault that has led to one crash and one near incident.

Our aviation correspondent reports:

The cause of the crash at Heathrow of BA 038 in January 2008 has been identified as fuel starvation or what engineers call "no fuel getting to the engine". Investigators have identifed the primary factor leading to this problem, which they has been described by leading technical experts as "a big lump of ice in the fuel tank", which arose from an adverse thermodynamic environment at high altitudes, clogging the fuel lines to both engines.

With over 750 planes put in service in the last 15 years, that works out at about 2 incidents in 2.8 million flights. In other words the probability of such an incident on any flight is about 10 times more likely than winning the national lottery with a single ticket.

The Boeing 777 is widely used on transatlantic and intercontinental flights. Industry experts say that a similar midflight incident might occure when ice accumulated in the fuel tanks is dislodged by vibrations caused turbulence or other activity such as the lowering of undercarriage. In such an event the pilot would be unlikely to be able to manoeuvre the plane in the same way as Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger, who recently landed his A320 aircraft in the Hudson River shortly after take off from LaGuardia Airport.

Industry sources added that the most likely manoeuvre after a total loss of power, leading to a failure of avionics and controls, would be a 35,000 ft descent or "plummet", putting down on the surface of the sea at a velocity above industry norms, causing likely damage to the aircraft fuselage, after which the airframe would probably "sink like a stone".

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