Airbus viewed by experts as safe, dependable plane

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The Airbus A300 gets mostly good marks from aviation authorities for safety and reliability despite Monday’s crash and questions about the type of engine with which some of the planes are equipped.

“It’s an excellent aircraft,” said David Stemple, president of the Air Travelers Association, a passenger safety advocacy organization. “We've had no complaints.”

But he expressed some doubts about the engines after American Airlines flight 587 crashed in Belle Harbor minutes after takeoff. The plane’s twos engines fell off and struck two sites two blocks apart.

“There seems to be some concern about the (General Electric) CF6 engines,” Stemple said. “But first, let us find out whether there was some factor, such as birds getting into the engines or something else.”

Another aviation expert voiced unqualified support for the Airbus A300, used by at least 30 major airlines around the world.

“I have no hesitation about flying on this aircraft,” said Terry Trippler, president of an airline information website of the same name. “It’s a very good plane.”

Those less enthusiastic about the A300 point out that the planes are part of the first series of jets made by the Airbus company, many of them far from new.

The Airbus 300 was certified in the United States on May 30, 1974 with Eastern Airlines the first airline to buy them.

The Airbus 300, some powered by General Electric engines and others by Pratt & Whitney engines, carries from 220 to 336 passengers depending upon seating configuration. Nearly 500 are in service worldwide.

A number of A300s have previously crashed throughout the world. But Stemple said most were the result of pilot error, not equipment problems in the planes.

Nevertheless, there have been several problems with CF6 engines, resulting in mostly but not entirely non-fatal accidents. The worst case involving that type of engine came on July 19, 1989 at Sioux City, Iowa when fan blades broke loose inside an earlier version of a CF6 engine of a DC10 jetliner, which then crashed while the pilot tried to land, killing 111 people.

Airbus SAS of Toulouse, France, which manufactures the Airbus jetliner series, was established by France and West Germany in 1969 with later participation by Britain in an effort to overcome the domination of worldwide airliner sales principally by Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed of the United States.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

Updated 7:28 pm, October 10, 2011
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