Airbus has history of twisted landing gear

Accounts of the dramatic landing of an Airbus jet in Los Angeles with its nose gear stuck and the wheels turned 90 degrees sideways focused almost exclusively on the fact that frightened passengers were able to watch their own plight on in-flight television newscasts.

Virtually overlooked was that this kind of incident had happened on Airbus 320s at least four times before.

The most recent was in 1999, which resulted in a mandatory airworthiness directive to all airlines operating the aircraft to fix possible faults with O-ring seals in the landing-gear steering module.

In Los Angeles, U.S. National Transportation and Safety Board investigators now are not only examining the JetBlue Airbus, interviewing the flight crew and other airline staff, but also reviewing airline maintenance and service records.

The latter may prove the key to finding out why the A320 carrying 146 people had to make an emergency landing with its nose wheels locked at about 90 degrees.

“The question now, of course, is whether JetBlue — or a previous operator of the aircraft — performed

 the corrective action as they should have,” one Ottawa-based aviation engineer said.

He also said that if the JetBlue aircraft did have a defective component, it may not always have been on that same aircraft.

“Parts like this are described as ‘rotable,' meaning they can be removed and replaced or used on any aircraft of the same type and model,” he said.

No one was hurt in the emergency landing, but there was plenty of anxiety.

Passenger Zachary Mastoon of New York said it was “surreal” to watch his plane's fate being discussed on live TV while it was in the air. At one point, he said, he tried to call his family, but Associated Press reported his cellphone call wouldn't go through. “I wanted to call my dad to tell him I'm alive so far,” the 27-year-old musician said.

Diane Hamilton, 32, a television graphics specialist, said: “At the end it was the worst because you didn't know if it was going to work, if we would catch fire. It was very scary. Grown men were crying.”

JetBlue, based in New York, is a five-year-old, low-fare airline with 286 flights a day and destinations in 13 states and the Caribbean. It operates a fleet of 81 A320s. In a statement, the airline said it was working with regulatory authorities and Airbus officials to investigate the accident.

In February, 1999, according to NTSB records, an America West Airlines A320 trying to land in Port Columbus International Airport had problems with its landing gear and, during its final approach, the control tower noticed that its nose wheels were rotated sideways.

Just as in Los Angeles, the pilots made a safe emergency landing. It was a soft touchdown with lots of runway to spare, and damage was limited to tires and rims.

A subsequent investigation showed not only that seals on the steering control module had failed — and that three other similar incidents had occurred — but also that Airbus had several months earlier issued a service bulletin. But neither the French Direction Générale de l'Aviation Civile nor the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration had adopted it as a mandatory airworthiness certificate, and the airline did not comply.

That certificate was issued by the French authority on March 24, 1999, and by the FAA on Dec. 17, 1999. The FAA gave its airlines 12 months to comply.

Air Canada spokeswoman Laura Cooke said yesterday that Air Canada operates 51 Airbus A320s and that they fully comply with the 1999 steering-control-module airworthiness directives. She said Air Canada will monitor the probe of the JetBlue incident and will take any additional steps required as a result of the investigation.

Peter Garrison, an aviation journalist known for his monthly Aftermath column in Flying Magazine, which analyzes aircraft accidents based on NTSB reports, said in an interview yesterday that while the Los Angeles incident looked dramatic, it “never had the earmarks of a life-threatening emergency.”

Still, there were frantic preparations, including shifting passengers and overhead baggage to the back of the aircraft and instructing passengers on how to brace for a bumpy landing.

Mr. Harrison said that the JetBlue pilots had three hours to consult with Airbus and its own instructor-pilots on the ground to formulate a safe approach. That would have included a long and soft landing to try to keep as much weight off the front of the aircraft as possible.

“The pilot did an exceptionally good job landing the way he did.”

September 24, 2005 - Airbus Had 7 Stuck Wheel Cases

LOS ANGELES, California (USA)  — Federal air safety investigators began the meticulous task of dismantling the nose gear of a JetBlue Airways Airbus A320 on Thursday in hopes of discovering what made the landing apparatus lock at a 90-degree angle and force an emergency landing.

The nose gear on the A320, made by Airbus Industrie in France, will be taken apart piece by piece, the National Transportation Safety Board announced.
Investigators will examine the parts for defects or mechanical causes that may have prompted it to lock down minutes after Flight 292 departed Bob Hope Airport in Burbank for a nonstop flight to New York City.
"If it's not assembled properly, that could have one effect," NTSB investigator Howard Plagens said during an LAX briefing. "Unless you disassemble it in an orderly manner, you could destroy the evidence that leads you to what happened here."
In addition, NTSB crews interviewed Flight 292's pilot Scott Burke, who guided the crippled plane Wednesday onto a Los Angeles International Airport runway without injuring the 140 passengers.
The investigation started as more information emerged about similar problems with the nose gear on other A320 planes operated by JetBlue and other airlines.
In all, there have been at least seven cases where front wheels on the planes have stuck in a sideways position, including two November 2002 cases involving a JetBlue A320 and an A320 operated by United Airlines, respectively.
JetBlue CEO David Neeleman praised Burke's performance and that of the flight crew during the tense three-hour flight as the pilot flew over the Pacific Ocean burning off fuel that bought time as the pilot, JetBlue executives and Airbus technicians laid out an emergency landing plan.
The plane landed with a brief, sparking ball of flame from the landing gear, and used nearly 95 percent of the 13,000-foot-long runway, the longest at LAX. Flight crews had moved passengers and baggage toward the back of the plane to enhance a pilot maneuver that kept the front gear up as long as possible once the plane's main landing gear touched down.
"I would like to express my personal admiration and deep appreciation to the pilots and flight attendants of Flight 292 for their professionalism and skill in handling (Wednesday's) incident," Neeleman said, adding it was a "perfectly executed emergency landing."
Burke was identified by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Wednesday but JetBlue has declined to provide information about the pilot or his crew.
JetBlue continues to provide travel arrangements for the passengers to go to New York, as well as any other assistance they need. Late Wednesday, JetBlue bused a group of the Flight 292 passengers to Long Beach Airport, JetBlue's West Coast hub and flew them to New York City on its last departure of the night.
Two charters also flew passengers into New York, arriving Thursday to cheers from tearful family members and friends who greeted them at JetBlue's terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
"The flight crew did an excellent job," passenger Jeff Arceo told NY1 as he arrived with others in New York City. "It's a great feeling, just making it."
In addition to examining the airplane and interviewing the flight crew, the NTSB team will also talk to other airline personnel and review maintenance and service records. The federal investigators are from the NTSB's regional office in Gardena.
The cockpit voice recorder and digital flight data recorder have been removed from the airplane and secured for review also.
Earlier Thursday, another JetBlue Airways plane was able to land safely at at John F. Kennedy International Airport after its pilot reported a problem with the wing flaps as the plane prepared to descend, an airline spokeswoman said. No injuries were reported.
Airbus admits undercarriage problems on A320 series
Web posted at: 9/25/2005 2:6:38
Source ::: AFP

PARIS: European aeroplane builder Airbus acknowledged yesterday previous jammed nose wheel incidents similar to the one which caused a spectacular emergency landing in the United States earlier this week.

"These incidents all ended without a problem and we must await the end of the inquiry to know what really caused this one and if the causes are the same," an Airbus spokeswoman said.

She was responding to a report from the US Federal Aviation Administration following the emergency landing of an Airbus A320 at Los Angeles airport with the nose wheels jammed at right angles to the fuselage.

Incidents involving nose wheels had occurred with an American West A320 in February 1999, a JetBlue A320 on November 1, 2002 and a United Airlines A319 — a smaller version of the Airbus model-on November 21, 2002, the FAA said on Friday.

No one was injured in any of the incidents.

The New York Times reported on Friday, citing FAA officials, that Wednesday's incident, again involving a JetBlue A320, marked at least the seventh time the Airbus has had problems with its nose wheels.

The French Airline Pilots' Association for its part said there had been six such incidents before 2000.

On Wednesday, the nose landing gear on JetBlue flight 292 became jammed at a 90 degree angle and failed to retract following takeoff from Burbank airport in the Los Angeles area.

With the plight of the plane carried live on national television — and watched by the 140 passengers on seatback screens-the crew dumped fuel and landed spectacularly but safely.