Damage to Airbus jet prompts FAA check

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The Independent US

Aviation authorities in the United States plan to order inspections of tail fins on some Airbus airliners after internal damage was discovered in an American Airlines jet that had veered out of control over Florida in 1997.

The Federal Aviation Administration made the discovery while investigating the crash of another American Airlines Airbus in the Queens neighbourhood of New York on 12 November. The crash, which occurred when the aircraft's tail snapped off just after take off, killed all 260 people on board and five on the ground.

The FAA's order will affect A300-600 Airbus jets that have been exposed to severe turbulence or tail pressure.

In the Florida incident, pilots had put huge pressure on the rudder after the jet stalled over West Palm Beach. One passenger was injured as the jet, which was seriously overloaded, veered wildly from side to side for 34 seconds.

Inspectors have now found damage inside the layers of composite materials of the fin. The flaws had not been detected with visual inspections.

Pilots at American Airlines, the only US carrier to use the A300-600, said they had been unhappy that only visual checks had previously been carried out on the jets and welcomed the call for ultrasonic checks.

One pilot, Tod Wissing, said: "This is what we were looking for from the outset. After such a catastrophic accident with a tail made of composite, we need a sophisticated inspection."