The core problem that led to the grounding of Boeing 737 Max worldwide has surfaced on the Airbus 320 Neo as well.

But unlike Boeing 737 Max, A320NEO has never had an excessive pitch problem during flight.

The problem came up recently only during laboratory testing carried out by the European aircraft manufacturer.

The main problem which led to the grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on a worldwide basis, has surfaced Airbus 320 Neo as well. Both these aircraft as a peculiar tendency to pitch their nose in an upward direction, excessively to an unsafe degree, during certain stages of its flight. But if one tries to understand the biggest difference, one must know the fact that unlike Boeing 737 Max, A320NEOhas never had an excessive pitch problem during flight operations. The problem had recently been diagnosed during a detailed examination and laboratory testing as carried out by the European aircraft manufacturer.

But surprisingly a wary European aviation regulator which hat certified the A320NEO safe to fly has issued an interim directive asking airlines to load the A320NEO in such a manner that the tail end of the aeroplane remains in a lighter position than the rest of the body. This is the reason why aeroplanes like Lufthansa and British Airways have started leaving the last row of six seats vacant on their A320NEO.

Unlike the European regulator, DGCAorDirectorate General of Civil Aviation didn’t put out a directive in public yet. But in order to comply with the decision of the European regulator’s directive, airlines have started leaving the cargo compartment nearest to the tail end of the aeroplane empty, as per said by the Director-General of civil aviation, Arun Kumar on Tuesday.

The European union aviation safety agency or EASA on 31st of July had issued an airworthiness directive which is applicable to all A320NEO aircraft. After the citation of the problem, EASA reported that an excessive pitch attitude can be responsible for the increased workload of the pilots. “To address the potentially unsafe condition, Airbus(the aircraft manufacturer) issued an Aircraft Flight Manual Temporary Revision, limiting the centre of gravity envelope, which presents the aforementioned condition “, said the EASA directive, which came into the effect on August 14.

Do you know about the aircraft centre of gravity and how it works in preventing and excessive-high nose-up pitch? Definitely you would know that the centre of gravity is a point in case of an aeroplane where it helps the aeroplane to maintain a proper balance upon itself. The aircraft balances just like a See-Saw where the head balances on one end and the tale on the other. The aircraft is loaded in such a way with passengers and the fuel, that the centre of gravity always remains constant or at least within a prescribed range through all stages of flight and is never compromised.

It is said by a senior commander that, “If the tail end is lighter than the nose end, the aircraft will be nose-heavy and it will tend to pitch downwards. A heavy nose will counteract the excessive nose-up tendency of the A320NEO.”

India is said to be one of the largest operators of A320NEOs, with more than a hundred aircraft in operation. The Director-General Arun Kumar said that” On August 7, we held a meeting with airlines and stakeholders and asked them to implement the EASA directive. 3 out of 4 Indian carriers that operate the A320NEO have already complied with the directive. These include IndiGo and GoAir. We will ensure that the fourth is in compliance by Wednesday.”

The A320NEO is said to have five cargo compartment. He further said,” Compartment 5 which is near the tail end is kept empty. Compartments three and four are loaded less and compartments 1 and 2 which are near the nose are loaded more”, he said adding that careers like Lufthansa and British Airways 32 row of seats. “Our A320NEOs only have 31 rows of seats, so the last row is not being kept vacant, instead the adjustments are done in the cargo compartment”, he added.

The Senior Pilot captain Amit Singh, Fellow Royal Aeronautical Society, London said,” a safety management system mandated safety risk assessment needs to be carried out to identify possible complications when a new procedure is adopted”. He had also added strictly that self-regulation was an issue which came under criticism in theB737 MaxMCAS certification as well. The onus of means of compliance for the directive issued by EASA regarding the A320NEO pitch issues has been left on the airlines.”

It is reported that the directive to limit the centre of gravity of  A320NEO is temporary. It will not be in effect until the aircraft manufacturer makes changes in the aircraft software to increase the efficiency of the “angle of attack” protection. The angle of attack is said to be an angle at which the wing of the aircraft is incident to the oncoming relative airflow. It is to be known that a nose-up pitch increases the angle of attack which increases the lift acting on its wings which is why an aircraft take-off and climb with a nose-up attitude. But one must be also aware of the fact that as the aircraft nose goes up the speed goes down. And excessive-high nose can stall the aeroplane in the midway. Hence in order to protect the stall, the aircraft computer has an angle of attack protection which ensures aircraft staying within the safe angle of attack limits throughout its journey.

The EASA directive reported that “ analysis and laboratory testing of the behaviour of the flight control laws of the A320NEO identified a reduced efficiency of the angle of attack protection when the aeroplane is set in certain flight configurations.” Importantly, an excessive nose-up pitch would move the centre of gravity of the aeroplane beyond the maximum allowed limits.


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