The Skyservice incident is the latest of several incidents of cowling detachments on A320s. Other incidents have involved Air Canada, America West and Airtours International. An incident also occured on a Canada 3000 A330. The problem is basically there are no positive indicators, either externally or on the flightdeck that the cowl is not only closed, but also locked and secured.
In the UK the CAA published a detailed report into the Airtours incident, which occured in January.
Previous cases of cowl detachment;
It appeared that the appreciable number of previous cases should have been sufficient to have prompted the introduction of effective measures to prevent recurrence, prior to G-VCED’s accident and the subsequent A330 accident in Canada. The powerplant manufacturer had developed a number of measures, but those that had been categorised as recommended were considered unlikely to be sufficiently effective. The measure likely to be most effective, the installation of a Hold-Open device (SB 0259), was categorised as a customer option. Some information on the background that could justify incorporating the SB was presented to operators, but only in brief summary form. It would appear that the detailed information on fleet-wide experience available to the aircraft and/or powerplant manufacturer would place them in a considerably better position to judge, in conjunction with the airworthiness authorities, the necessity for a modification relevant to airworthiness and to advise operators accordingly. It is therefore recommended that Airbus Industrie assess the adequacy of their process for determining the possible adverse flight safety implications of reported incidents and accidents to their aircraft and for advising operators of effective measures to prevent recurrence (Recommendation No 2000-31).
Recommendation No 2000-26
It is recommended that the DGAC mandate aircraft modification aimed at appreciably reducing the likelihood of A320 fan cowl doors inadvertently remaining unlatched after maintenance. It is considered that, while measures to exhort maintenance personnel to ensure the doors are latched and to improve the conspicuity of unfastened latches may assist, they are unlikely to be fully effective and modification aimed at providing obvious indication of unlatched doors is required.
Recommendation No 2000-27
It is recommended that, until measures to satisfy the intent of Recommendation No 2000-26 are incorporated, the DGAC and Airbus Industrie recommend A319, A320, A321 and/or A330 aircraft maintenance organisations to record the unlatching and latching of fan cowl doors and to specify a duplicate inspection to confirm latching.
Recommendation No 2000-28
It is recommended that the CAA, FAA and DGAC consider whether similar measures to Recommendations Nos 2000-26 and 2000-27 are necessary for other aircraft types.
Recommendation No 2000-29
It is recommended that the DGAC and Airbus Industrie consider the incorporation of a system to provide flight deck warning of unlatched fan cowl doors on the A319, A320, A321 and A330 aircraft types.
Recommendation No 2000-30
It is recommended that the JAA and the FAA consider a requirement for future aircraft certification for a system to provide flight deck warning of all unlatched access panels or doors that could hazard the aircraft if left unfastened.
Recommendation No 2000-31
It is recommended that Airbus Industrie assess the adequacy of their process for determining the possible adverse flight safety implications of reported incidents and accidents to their aircraft and for advising operators of effective measures to prevent recurrence.
Interesting to note what type of damage has been done by engine cowls being torn off, only takes one incident where the cowl hits the tail/elevators in such a manner as to disable them and we have a probably fatal accident due to uncontrolability. Can't help but draw parallels with the Concorde accident - why was it grounded when A320s are still flying even with several incidents where luck has played a large part in a safe landing. I'm not saying the A320 should be grounded, I don't think Concorde should have been singled out and grounded either, though.