Flying on National-Prestige Airframes

So last Sunday, an Airbus 310 flying from Cuba to Quebec lost the entire control surface of its rudder (picture). According to BitsBlog (via Instapundit), even though the plane was in US airspace at the time, the pilot elected to return to Cuba rather than declare an in-flight emergency. He did so after conferring with the plane’s owner, Air Transat.

This is the third incident involving a A300-series’s rudder. One of the incidents resulted in the crash of American Airlines flight 587 in November of 2001, which resulted in the deaths of all 265 lives aboard. This raises legitimate questions about the safety of the A300 airframe’s revolutionary use of composite materials. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Airbus or any competent authority is taking the matter seriously. I think they are not tackling the problem because of matters of national prestige.

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EH101 Variant Chosen As New ‘Marine Corps One’

A variant of the venerable EH101 (EuroHelicopter 101) medium-lift helicopter, dubbed the US101, has been chosen by the US Navy for it’s next generation presidential transport, traditionally referred to as Marine Corps One. The EH101 was designed in the 1980’s by the British/Italian consortium AgustaWestland and is currently in service with several NATO nations.

Lockheed Martin and Bell Helicopter teamed with AgustaWestland to offer the US101 against a Sikorsky/Boeing team, which was offering a variant of Sikorsky’s S-92, a similar helicopter. The US101 will be partially manufactured in the US by Bell, will incorporate GE engines, a European manufactured drive train and transmission, and British manufactured blades. Various custom avionics will be purchased in the US and integrated by Lockheed Martin.

What a coup for AgustaWestland! You can bet your last Euro-dollar that photos of the EH101 in Marine Corps livery majestically taking flight from the White House lawn are going into their sales brochures tomorrow.

Sikorsky Helicopter had been manufacturing the presidential helicopter fleet since the Eisenhower administration. Losing that prestigious spot had to really, really hurt.

But I can’t say I’m surprised.

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