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Thursday, January 4, 2007

Lauber Responds to Airbus Fuel Inerting Story, ICAO Issues Separation Standards

In a letter to USA Today, which reported that the Airbus A380 would be exempt from proposed fuel inerting, former NTSB member John Lauber said that the A380 already would comply with the proposed rules. “The proposed rules include means of assessing flammability of fuel tanks (based on such factors as the average time the tanks are empty), and Airbus has performed the calculations for the A380,” Lauber, who is now senior vice president, product safety, Airbus, wrote. “The results demonstrate the A380 does not fall into the category of aircraft for which fuel tank inerting would be required (according to the proposed Federal Aviation Administration rules). This is possible because of the low fuel tank flammability already designed into the aircraft.” He indicated that once a final version of FAA rules become effective, Airbus will comply with them. In other news, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) issued final rules for safe separation for the jumbo airliner, with a steering committee concluding the A380 is not much different than a 747 in cruise. For aircraft behind the A380 while on approach, the group recommended six miles for aircraft designated as "heavy" and eight miles for aircraft designated as medium or "light." Airbus expressed hope that operations experience and further testing might allow even closer distances. ICAO accepted the steering groups’ recommendation for flight during cruise, abolishing all vertical and horizontal distance restrictions other than standard radar separation; the A380 is to be treated as a 747 for that phase. It also accepted the group’s recommendation for minimum following distances during approach which calls for an A320 to separate from an A380 at a greater differences than a light Cessna 172 has to follow a 747. Aibus called this illogical, adding it shows the conservatism of the ICAO’s approach.
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