Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Easyjet you fly at your own risk

Why do you start your article that way? you are thinking my reader.
I am going to explain you starting from the end and then go back to the beginning.
The end was an half hour delay on an Easyjet flight from London Gatwick to Pisa in Italy. Something nearly normal you would say my reader. Not so much if you read the whole article my reader.

But now let me interrupt at go back few years to 2009 when a joint-venture was set up between Airbus and a group of Chinese partners. Accordingly Airbus opened an assembly plant in Tianjin, People's Republic of China for its A320 series airliners in 2009.

Harbin Aircraft Industry Group Corporation, Hafei Aviation Industry Company Ltd, AviChina Industry & Technology Company and other Chinese partners hold the 80% stake of the plant while Airbus control the remaining 20%.

Effectively the know-how comes from Airbus but the production comes from the Chinese partners.
The joint venture was so successful that in February 2014 Airbus was increasing its share in the Harbin Hafei Airbus Composite Manufacturing Centre (HMC), from 20 to 25 percent. Following the agreement, the HMC will increase the production of A320 rudders from 50 per cent of the total production worldwide to 80 per cent. The two parties will also work toward ensuring the ramp up of the A350 XWB work packages at the HMC and also commit to exploring other opportunities.

What does that mean? you are certainly asking yourself my reader.
Well I myself am not an expert of aircraft mechanics. But the rudder is a vital part of the aircraft the one that gives stability and avoids vibration in the aircraft.

Now the FAA steps in. Who is the FAA? The Federal Aviation Administration is the national aviation authority of the United States.
The FAA is primarily responsible for the advancement, safety and regulation of civil aviation, as well as overseeing the development of the air traffic control.
Back in June 2013 the FAA Issued Airworthiness Directive (AD) for Certain Airbus A319 thru A321 Jets, Rudder Issues. In particular the AD was prompted by reports of surface defects on rudders that were the result of debonding between the skin and honeycomb core. FAA was issuing this AD to detect and correct extended de-bonding, which might degrade the structural integrity of the rudder. The loss of the rudder leads to degradation of the handling qualities and reduces the controllability of the airplane.

In other and simpler words if the rudder is defective that gives vibration to the aircraft and can be seriously dangerous.

FAA rose serious concerns about Airbus A319 thru A321 jets specifically due to their rudders.
Which by the way were the ones made in China already in the past for half of the total production worldwide of A320 family and which will go up to 80 per cent.

And here Easyjet come back again. Why? Because Easyjet uses many A319 and 320 jets. And more will come in the future. Today Easyjet announced that it had selected Airbus as the preferred supplier for 120 A319 aircraft, with options with price protection on a further 120 A319s.
Which means that a large part of Easyjet fleet will be A319 Airbus.

But I am a curious guy and went to check Airline Incidents for airline Easyjet. This is what I found out:
September 2014:
1) Easyjet A319 at Basel on Jul 20th 2014, turbulence injures cabin crew (Published on 18.09.2014)
2) Easyjet A319 near Naples on Sep 1st 2014, severe turbulence injures 3 (Published on 17.09.2014)
3) Easyjet A319 at Glasgow on Sep 15th 2014, unsafe gear (Published on 15.09.2014)
4) Easyjet A320 near London on Aug 28th 2014, smoke indication (Published on 10.09.2014)
5) Easyjet A319 at Amsterdam on Sep 1st 2014, engine problem (Published on 02.09.2014)

August 2014
1) Easyjet A319 at Amsterdam on Aug 8th 2014, rejected takeoff (Published on 08.08.2014)
2) Easyjet A320 at Tenerife on Jun 2nd 2014, fuel emergency (Published on 04.08.2014)
We stop here by now but the list is much longer.

But there is another interesting number:
Airline Incidents for aircraft type Airbus A-319:
the number one for September 2014 is again Easyjet with 4 incidents, followed by Germanwings (2 incidentts) and then 5 other airline companies (each of them with 1 accident).

Easyjet is especially unlucky with A319 Airbus compare with its competitors.

Now let's go back to the end of the story.

All started with an apparent innocent delay on a flight from London Gatwick to Italy.
The 1 hour delay in reality was not so innocent.
Please bear in mind that the flight was packed with less than 1 year old babies.
Just in front of my place there were three.
All of them were crying loudly and impatient as the flight stood still for an hour.
After 10 -15 minutes from the timetable of the take off the Captain told us that the flight was delayed because we were waiting for an international traveller from USA who was on a delayed flight. After another half hour we received a second message from the Captain reiterating the same message.

However after an hour from the scheduled hour the flight took off without taking anybody onboard.
At that stage the babies has transformed the airplanes in a screaming place.
The Captain lied to us. The delay was due to other unknown reasons.

I thought that story was quite strange and as I am an investigative journalist I took notice of the details.
The flight had more than half hour delay on arrival.
What was the real reason of the delay? Easyjet told me it was because of "your flight was delayed earlier in the day at Marseilles due to Departure Restrictions at the airport".
That was correct but there is a serious question here.
Let's say that there are some delays in Marseille airport early in the day. Everybody at Easyjet knows that our flight in the late afternoon to Italy will be late. The flight is packed with many little babies.

Easyjet then had a very bad attitude to its passengers. Why would you force them to stay in an airplane for an hour and half before living to Italy (as we boarded half an hour before the take off) when you already knew that we would not have left earlier than an hour late?

It would have made much more sense not to board the passengers before than an hour from the final departure time.

At the end of the day you submitted Easyjet passengers (and especially its less than 1 year old babies) to an unnecessary torture forcing them to stay seated for all that period of time, for nothing.
We were going to leave late anyway.

But was something else the cause of the delay?
Were there the rudders of my aircraft?

I discovered that the same aircraft was supposed to leave London Gatwick to Marseille at 13.05 but left 20 minutes late. And since then left late from Marseille to London (4.20 pm) and from London to Pisa (1 hour late). Why? Does it have anything to do with the rudders?
Mistery of Bahia

Max Bono

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