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Mon, Mar 07, 2005

Another Airbus Rudder Problem?

Several Air Transat Planes Grounded After A310 Almost Lost Vertical Stabilizer

Ten Air Transat aircraft were grounded Sunday after the rudder on an Airbus A310 "nearly fell off," according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

On Saturday, a spokesman for the airline said the aircraft, flying from Varadero, Cuba to Quebec City, developed "mechanical trouble" about 30-minutes into the flight. Pressed for particulars, the spokesman told CBC the rudder "partially fell off."

The aircraft immediately turned back to Varadero, landing normally even though part of the rudder was missing.

All 261 passengers were put up in local hotels and were eventually retrieved by another Air Transat A310.

The other nine A310s in the airline's fleet were immediately grounded and underwent two-hour long inspections wherever they were parked, according to the airline.

All of the other aircraft were back in operation by Sunday night.

Shades Of AAL 587?

Although the circumstances of the rudder incident aboard Air Transat Flight 961 haven't yet come to light, the event was eerily reminiscent of the last journey of American Airlines Flight 587, an Airbus A300 headed from New York's JFK to the Dominican Republic on November 12th, 2001. Scant minutes after take-off, the flight went down in a Queens neighborhood, killing all on board. The NTSB ruled the copilot overworked the rudder pedals in an attempt to escape wake turbulence. But there were concerns about the vertical stabilizer aboard the A300 as early as 1997.

The A300 and the A310 are within the same Airbus family, according to manufacturer literature.

FMI: www.airtransat.com

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