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A330 A Flawed Etops Design?

Wed Sep 05, 2001 1:59 am

I'm not trying to start an A vs. B war.

The idea behind ETOPS was to set up a series of safeguards which would ensure that a twin engine plane could fly long distance routes over water safely - in other words, that in case of an engine failure, the plane would keep flying.

Part of the principle is the complete segregation of vital components, so that a failure in one engine's systems will not effect the other. In principle, the only possible way that such an aircraft could loose both engines is for it to run out of fuel, or something completely external, like the BA 747 which flew through a volcanic plume some years ago.

According to the preliminary reports, the Air Transat A330 that glided into the Azores last week suffered from a fuel line which had been severed by abrasive contact with a hydraulic line. The plane had fuel in the tanks when it landed (some spilled on the runway) but no way of getting that fuel to the engines.

It was very fortunate that the incident happened only 18 minutes away from the Azores - the only islands between America and Europe, apart from the Canaries, much further southeast. Much further away, and they would have had to ditch, and I understand that there were only 2 operable rescue helicopters in the Azores. Ditching an aircraft is hardly a proven science - there would almost certainly been fatalities.

Anyway, I find it hard to believe that the failure of a single fuel line would cripple a plane supposedly designed with the maximum redundency possible with two engines. Would such an occurance kill both engines on a 777, 767, 757 or A310/300? In light of this incident, the authorities will certainly want to correct this oversight - will it be possible to correct it? If it is not corrected, will it mean the possible withdrawal of ETOPS certification from the A330 fleet? That would cause tremendous damage to those airlines who heavily depend on it for long-range routes, like Swissair.

The only thing you should feel when shooting a terrorist: Recoil.
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RE: A330 A Flawed Etops Design?

Wed Sep 05, 2001 2:08 am

The 330 is not a flawed design. The fuel leak was from a split feed pipe on the engine. Every a/c has only one fuel feed pipe from where it exits the front spar.
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RE: A330 A Flawed Etops Design?

Wed Sep 05, 2001 2:09 am

As per the preliminary reports you mention, it seems that the crew (who has been great, getting the aircraft safely on the ground) may have made a mistake by not following the proper fuel procedure. And that could be the reason why fuel didn't arrive in the engine.
If this is confirmed by the final report, then the Canadian safety board will have to determine if the mistake is due to a human mistake, or if the procedure in the flight manual is not clear enough, or if the crew has not received the appropriate training from AT.(A330 is quite new in this airline).
Today, it is too early to start a polemic.
And not all the 330 are Rolls Royce powered.
Ecoute les orgues, Elles jouent pour toi...C'est le requiem pour un con
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RE: A330 A Flawed Etops Design?

Wed Sep 05, 2001 2:18 am

It seems that a service bulletin in 1999 regarding engine-change procedures was not properly embodied on at least one of the engines.
It is odd that with all the EICAS, FMS etc, the crew did not notice the fuel starvation much earlier, and what were they doing with the fuel-feed systems? We will have to wait and see.
It does appear that the leak was downstream of the starboard engine low-press. cut-off valve. If this had been shut, the flight could have continued with the port engine. Were the crew aware of the leaks location, did the information displayed confuse them? Shutting the fuel crossfeed valve between the L/H and R/H tanks would have secured the fuel in the left wing tanks.
Is there a problem with the loss of flight engineers causing a lack of systems knowledge with some pilots?
The incident should silence some Airbus critics, who still claim that the FBW/sidestick configuration would be unflyable in an engine-out mode, deprived of electrical power. In fact, the R.A.T. and windmilling from the engines provided electrical power and the 'green' hydraulic system.
This is the first ever glide descent and landing in a digital fly-by-wire airliner.
Personally, I am against extending ETOPS any further.

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RE: A330 A Flawed Etops Design?

Wed Sep 05, 2001 2:19 am


According to your Profile, you're the guy to ask these questions to.

Why cannot an aircraft have multiple fuel lines leading to the engines, for instance, Engine #1 is fed through a line dedicated to it from a tank in the left wing, and Engine #2 similarly from the right wing, with fuel transfer pumps to even the load out?

Are all other "big twins" designed the same way?


P.S. Kudos to the pilots who managed to glide the beast to a safe landing.
The only thing you should feel when shooting a terrorist: Recoil.
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RE: A330 A Flawed Etops Design?

Wed Sep 05, 2001 2:38 am

From the A340 FCOM:-

Fuel Leak Procedure

A fuel leak may be detected by either:-

the sum of the Fuel on Board (FOB) and the F. Used is significantly less than the FOB at departure, or pax observation.

total fuel qty decreasing at an abnormal rate, or fuel imbalance or

a tank emptying too fast (leak from an engine or a hole on a tank), or

a tank overflowing (due to pipe rupture in a tank).



Thrust lever IDLE

Eng Master Switch OFF

The X-feed can now be selected open for rebalancing or to allow use of the fuel from both wings. Do not restart the engine.


Fuel X-feed 1+2+3+4 .....Maintain closed
The X-feed valves must remain closed to prevent the leak effecting both sides

L+R Inner Tank .............Split

Descend to Gravity Fuel Ceiling

Eng Start Selector..........Ign

All tank pumps (when gravity ceiling reached)......Off
in almost all cases, switching the pumps off will prevent any further loss of fuel. All pumps must be switvched off, even if the keak is from one wing only, as there are some failures on one side that will result in fuel loss from the other side

If one engine flames out when there is still fuel in the feeding tank:

Leak from engine procedure.......Apply
All tank pumps.......................On

As the 330 is similar in system design I doubt that the A330 procedure will be much different

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RE: A330 A Flawed Etops Design?

Wed Sep 05, 2001 2:50 am


Firstly, I think the pilots did well to land the glider, but on the other hand I believe they made some mistakes before they ran out of fuel.

The design a fuel system such as you describe introduces more chance of failure. For instance a duel engine fuel feed would require a shut off valve at the fuel spar plus additional shut off valves where the supply pipes split (in case of a leak downstream) and you are doubleing the risk of fuel feeding an engine fire.

There is no requirement for the fuel feed in the wing as you describe as this exists in the current x-feed design. It is also considered safer to feed engines from the closest tank for suction feed requirements if the boost pumps fail.
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RE: A330 A Flawed Etops Design?

Wed Sep 05, 2001 3:49 am

In the case of this particular incident, Airbus has issued an AD for the A330 powered by the Rolls Royce engine.

News Release:

PARIS (AP) - European airplane maker Airbus has asked airlines flying its A330 to check the jet's fuel pipes as a precautionary measure after one of the planes lost engine power and made a harrowing emergency landing on the Azores Islands, a spokesman said Thursday.
``We want to be sure, even if the risk is small, that the same (problem) does not exist on other planes,'' said David Velupillai, a spokesman for Toulouse, France-based Airbus.

An Airbus A330-200 belonging to Canadian carrier Air Transat glided to an emergency landing on Aug. 24 after it lost engine power over the Atlantic Ocean because of a fuel leak.

The jet was carrying 304 people on a flight from Toronto to Lisbon and had to land at an airport in the Azores about 900 miles off Portugal's coast. The tires burst when it landed, and 11 people required hospitalization, but their injuries were not considered serious.

Airbus said it asked carriers this week to perform a ``visual check'' of fuel lines near the engines. Only aircraft that use engines made by British company Rolls-Royce are concerned, Velupillai said. The check applies to 84 planes in service with 15 carriers.

A preliminary report issued Tuesday by Portuguese investigators said a malfunctioning fuel injection pump caused low fuel pressure in both Rolls-Royce engines.

Airbus said it was the first such incident involving an A330 aircraft. The company has sent specialists to the Azores Islands to help Portuguese authorities investigate.

Canada's transport ministry said Thursday that Air Transat will revamp safety and maintenance procedures and implement special training sessions for extended flights.

Under the new procedures, Air Transat flights will have to head for the closest airport at the first sign of an engine-related emergency.

Air Transat, which specializes in charter flights from Canadian and European cities to vacation destinations, has submitted a plan to improve maintenance and hire more maintenance and quality-control personnel.
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RE: A330 A Flawed Etops Design?

Wed Sep 05, 2001 4:11 am

More details on the story:

Document No. 1 of 20

Transat union fears discipline for talking

Airline denies that supervisor was warned about jet days before it was forced to land

Tuesday, September 4, 2001 – Print Edition,
Page A1

A senior union official says he's worried
about the security of mechanics' jobs at Air Transat after a local union
president disobeyed a secrecy order and commented publicly about the
investigation into a narrowly averted disaster.

"I just hope I don't lose any members because of this," said Richard Martin,
general chairman of District 140 of the International Association of
Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

"He was not supposed to say anything."

Jean Jallet, president of IAMAW Lodge 1751, which represents mechanics
at Air Transat's Mirabel hangar north of Montreal, told The Globe and Mail
on Sunday that a mechanic warned his supervisor about the Air Transat
plane just days before it lost power over the Atlantic and was forced into an
emergency landing on an island airstrip Aug. 24.

Mr. Jallet has also said the mechanic was so concerned about the plane that
he tape-recorded a phone conversation in which his supervisor overruled his
advice to leave the Airbus A330-200 on the ground.

The district union, to which Lodge 1751 belongs, issued a statement
yesterday saying it is unaware of any such warning or audio tape. Air
Transat also said it has no knowledge of such a conversation.

Mr. Martin said he could not comment on the existence of tapes.

"It's not completely we disagree with the [Globe's] story," Mr. Martin said.

"There was an order not to give any comment."

Air Transat spokesman Michel Lemay said the union's fears of disciplinary
action over the breach of secrecy are unfounded.

"We're not there at all," Mr. Lemay said. "It's very premature to say that."

Mr. Jallet did not return phone calls yesterday. One of his criticisms of Air
Transat had been that mechanics feel more pressure to approve the
company's 24 planes' airworthiness than they would at bigger airlines.
"Air Transat also wishes to reiterate that all airlines are subject to the same
maintenance and safety requirements," the company statement said. "We do
not compromise on these issues."

Air Transat has said it replaced an engine on the right wing of the Airbus
because tiny metal filings were detected in the motor's oil. The work was
completed Aug. 19 at the airline's repair facility north of Montreal, and the
plane flew 13 trips without incident before the engines lost power over the
Atlantic five days later.

An interim report by Portuguese investigators says the engines stopped
because a ruptured supply line starved them of fuel. Sources told The Globe
and Mail last week that the fuel leak was caused because two parts rubbed

Pilots around the world have since marvelled at the skill of Captain Robert
Piché in handling the plane after the second of its two engines went silent at
34,500 feet, 137 kilometres from the airstrip in the Azores islands where it
eventually landed. Mr. Martin said Mr. Jallet was disobeying a secrecy
order from his superiors when he detailed how the airline was missing the
necessary parts to completely modify the fuel line and an adjacent hydraulic

Mr. Jallet's comments echoed a criticism from the engines' manufacturer,
Rolls-Royce, which issued a statement last week saying the fuel leak
appears to be the result of Air Transat following only part of a service
bulletin issued earlier.

The head mechanic, who replaced the engine with a team of between six and
eight others, tried to follow the Rolls-Royce bulletin, Mr. Jallet said.

"That's why you'd get what what we call fretting, or chafing of the lines," he
said. "The mechanic was well aware that the service bulletin was half-done. I
don't know why they didn't have all the parts."

Mr. Jallet said an Air Transat supervisor disregarded the mechanic's concern
and signed off on the plane's release into regular service.

"My guy [the mechanic] did the right thing," he said. "When they tell you
something you don't agree with, you have to call them back and get it on
tape. That way you're covered."

Air Transat also reiterated yesterday that the employee in their maintenance
and engineering division who was taken out of regular service Aug. 29 was
not suspended, but rather given time off with pay.

"It is customary in the industry to hold out of service any person closely
related to the elements being examined by investigators," the statement said.

While any fuel leak is serious, the one that affected Air Transat's Airbus was
limited to the right-wing fuel tanks. Investigators are trying to determine
whether the pilots pumped fuel from the undamaged left-wing tanks to the
leaking right engine, causing both engines to quit. A portion of the
Portuguese authorities' interim report, released by Air Transat yesterday,
said: "Further metallurgical analysis will be conducted on the failed fuel line to
determine the cause of the failure. Further fact gathering and analysis will

Although the investigation isn't complete, Transport Canada has ordered Air
Transat pilots to take remedial training in fuel management and emergency
procedures for long flights over water. The regulator also directed the
Montreal-based airline to overhaul its maintenance procedures. The pilots'
first remedial sessions on fuel management will begin today.

Air Transat has been struggling to maintain its reputation in the wake of the
near disaster.

Some passengers already booked on Air Transat flights have tried to switch
airlines, and the company reported last week that reservations are down 5
per cent from the same period last year. The parent company's stock price,
battered all week by high trading volumes, has lost 11 per cent of its value
since the incident. The company is also offering travel agents a 20-per-cent
commission, significantly higher than usual, to place passengers on its flights.
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RE: A330 A Flawed Etops Design?

Wed Sep 05, 2001 5:05 am

In my experience that fuel line must have been partially chafed through BEFORE the engine was fitted, as it couldn't possible chafe through in so few hours since engine installation

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