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Big Airbus Gets Interesting AD

Fuselage Cracking a Concern

Though seemingly unrelated to the two-year-ago crash of Flight 587 over Queens (NY), the question of structural integrity of large airliners, particularly large composite structures in such aircraft, has long been an item of speculation.

The FAA has issued a new Airworthiness Directive, 2003-21-06, that covers "certain Airbus Model A330-301, -321, -322, -341, and -342 airplanes." The problem addressed is, "fatigue cracking of the rear fuselage, which could result in reduced structural integrity of the airplane."

While there is no grounding order or other 'panic button' verbage in the order, it is plain that the FAA has found something that needs attention. The FAA says that, "The Direction Generale de l'Aviation Civile (DGAC), which is the airworthiness authority for France, notified the FAA that an unsafe condition may exist on certain Airbus Model A330-301, -321, -322, -341, and -342 airplanes. The DGAC advises that, during fatigue testing, after 57,457 simulated flights, a crack initiated and propagated in the rear fuselage on the right-hand side of the airplane in the web of frame 65 at stringer 27, at the first lower rivet row of the cross-beam attach fitting. Such cracking, if not corrected, could result in reduced structural integrity of the airplane."

Apparently it's not a new problem; Airbus has issued a Service Bulletin on the subject, A330-53-3059, Revision 01, dated October 15, 1997.

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