At 35 000 feet above the Caribbean, Air Transat flight 961 was heading home to Quebec with 270 passengers and crew. At 3.45pm last Sunday, the pilot noticed something very unusual. His Airbus A310′s rudder — a structure over 8m high — had fallen off and tumbled into the sea. In the world of aviation, the shock waves have yet to subside.
Mercifully, the crew was able to turn the plane around, and by steering it with their wing and tail flaps managed to land at their point of departure in Varadero, Cuba, without loss of life. But as Canadian investigators try to discover what caused this near catastrophe, the specialist internet bulletin boards used by pilots, accident investigators and engineers are buzzing.
So, should you and I be concerned?
Despite these and earlier assurances, some pilots remain sceptical. The Observer has learnt that after the 587 disaster, more than 20 American Airlines A300 pilots asked to be transferred to Boeings, although this meant months of retraining and loss of earnings. Some of those who contributed to pilots’ bulletin boards last week expressed anger at the European manufacturer in vehement terms. One wrote that having attended an Airbus briefing about 587, he had refused to let any of his family take an A300 or A310 and had paid extra to take a circuitous route on holiday purely to avoid them: “That is how convinced I am that there are significant problems associated with these aircraft.”…
Sounds like it.
Two photos of the tail, minus the rudder, here.