Secured Engine Cowlings Through Better Latching

Does current latch design continue to account for inspectability & maintainability? Is a new and safer approach needed to secure engine cowlings?
By Rus Sutaria – Avia Intelligence Ltd.

The recent incident involving British Airways adds another installment to that which is the occasional drama of disappearing engine cowlings on Airbus A320’s. There appear to be parallels with the JetBlue incident, and it is without reasonable doubt, that the debate regarding latching mechanisms will invoke the usual finger-pointing regarding design issues, not least an apparent inadequacy in terms of maintenance and operational practice.

A British Airways Airbus A320 suffered the total loss of cowlings for both No.1 and No. 2 engines (together with an apparent engine fire) whilst departing from London Heathrow Airport for Oslo on Friday May 24, 2013. The pilots immediately turned the aircraft back to the airport, where an emergency landing was expertly executed at 08:43 BST. The accident investigation is on-going, with a view to determining the probable cause of the incident.

This and previous incidents involving engine cowling latches, appear to have highlighted a potential human factors weakness, not only in terms of design, but also in terms of inspectability and maintainability. There are distinct differences to the design and functional approaches where correct engine cowl security is concerned, and an even wider variety of SOPs for both pilots and maintenance engineers to follow in the pursuit of safely secured engine cowlings.

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