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Airbus A380 whistleblower says, "human lives could be in danger"

If you think whistleblowers in America have it rough, in Austria not only are they likely to loose their job, but they can be charged criminally. That's what's happening to American aerospace engineer Joseph Mangan. The Telegraph reports on the high cost he's paying for his charges against "the world's most ambitious aircraft."

Joseph Mangan thought he was doing Airbus a favour when he warned of a small but potentially lethal fault in the new A380 super-jumbo, the biggest and most costly passenger jet ever built.

Instead, Europe's aviation giant rubbished his claims, and now he faces ruin, a morass of legal problems, and - soon - an Austrian prison. Mr Mangan is counting the days at his Vienna flat across the street from Schonbrunn Palace, wondering whether the bailiffs or the police will knock first.

An American aerospace engineer, he has discovered that Austria offers scant protection to whistleblowers. ...His troubles began in September 2004 when he contacted the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), claiming that the cabin pressure system in the A380 might not be safe, and that this had been concealed.

[More]

The guy is totally screwed. If he's right and one of the planes looses cabin pressure at 35,000 ft (possibly killing everyone) then EU officials could come looking for him for manslaughter charges; and if he's wrong he's facing jail time for criminal defamation. As a member if the flying public I sure hope it's that later rather than the former...


Comments (32)

Hmmm.This is why y... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

This is why you want consult with a lawyer if there is even the slightest possibility of liability.

and ...

Frankly I don't think I'll ever fly on an AirBus. I'm still not convinced the AirBus that crashed onto Long Island was due to any sort of pilot failure and not a failure of the carbon composites in the rudder.

What you must do to adequately check the stability of carbon composites is you must x-ray every square inch of every carbon composite surface. This is what costs the USAF so much money keeping the B-2 aloft.

But what the airlines do is a visual inspection.

So if there's a detachment in middle layers of a carbon composite rudder or wing surface, it won't be visible and you'll still have the risk of the damn thing coming apart.

No thanks.

This is one of the reasons ... (Below threshold)

This is one of the reasons I avoid Airbus equipment as much as possible when I need to fly. Granted it's unavoidable on certain airlines, and in Europe, almost everyone uses Airbus for regional flights.

But when I fly transatlantic, I do everything I can to make sure I am on a Boeing airplane. I rest easier.

Between this new revelation and the number of issues associated with the A320 family, I figure I may as well minimzse my Airbus exposure as much as possible.

Problems can occur on any airplane. They're all highly complex pieces of equipment. It just seems that Airbus has more than its fiar share of them.

If I have a choice, I choos... (Below threshold)

If I have a choice, I choose to fly in Boeing or Embraer aircraft. Airbus blamed the Long Island crash on poor pilot training; overreacting on the yoke in the wake of a passing aircraft. I think Airbus should have anticipated this scenario in the design of its controls.

We sat in the aft section o... (Below threshold)

We sat in the aft section of an Airbus on a trip down to Guatemala, Central America, and it had to be jump-started off the tarmac at LAX. We'd been delayed taking off because they were having trouble starting-up - the AC and lights in the cabin kept going off suddenly as engines quit and wound-down. It was sweaty and hot inside, and dark. Looking outside my window I saw a big truck drive up to the side of the plane and they attached two big cables and I heard an audible sound, and then the lights and AC suddenly came back on on. It was just about like jump-starting my pickup truck.
Once finally in the air after the hour-and-a-half delay I came to understand the magic of First Class in the forward compartment. The ass-end of the plane was in constant motion up, down, left, right, as the computer-controlled elevator/rudder section was constantly adjusting and trimming. I went back to get an adult beverage from the flight crew, and while bouncing around fit for a mosh-pit that was the explanation they offered, and said all the Airbus planes did it. Screw 'em.

Completely off topic, but I... (Below threshold)

Completely off topic, but I thought I'd express my envy, Kevin. You're a paper millionnaire. Damn you.



My blog is worth $1,133,596.32.
How much is your blog worth?

There was an Airbus enginee... (Below threshold)
Nicholas:

There was an Airbus engineer conference in some city (I forget which). The engineers were overhead discussing amongst themselves how each of them had avoided flying on any Airbus aircraft in order to get to the conference.

I read an explanation of why the confusing way that certain controls (such as the descent rate limiter) are operated lead to crashes which are attributed to pilot error. They are indeed caused by pilot error, but the controls are so confusing that it's virtually unavoidable that these accidents will happen.

I think I've only flown on an Airbus plane once and it was fine, but I don't really feel like doing it again after all I have heard and read about them. It's a cultural problem. Imagine if NASA made airliners.... and they were from Europe....

There's a reason that insid... (Below threshold)
JD:

There's a reason that insiders call the company "ScareBus."

With all the problems surrounding Airbus these days, from the most recent gear problem on A320, to the stabilizer blowouts at Jamaica Bay and over the Caribbean, it is only a matter of time (and a matter of lives) before FAA has to ground the entire Airbus fleet as happened with the DC-10 after the American 282 crash.

You don't see tails falling... (Below threshold)
Rob Meagher:

You don't see tails falling off Boeings. No need to say anymore!

Can you explain to me why a... (Below threshold)
shark:

Can you explain to me why any American would ever voluntarily leave to live elsewhere anymore? From what I can see, the world no longer has anything to offer us

Sortapundit - I did a whole... (Below threshold)

Sortapundit - I did a whole post about that last week :-). Of course I didn't go to the trouble of making an applet to check everyone's value...

Hello right wing american w... (Below threshold)
David:

Hello right wing american wackos, first of all check the following link...http://www.motherjones.com/news/update/2005/10/flightrisk.html

This story was covered in several site last week boeing planes may have safety issue due to dud parts being used and no not 20 year old planes but those built from 1994 to 2004, the story was covered on several news agencies,,,,and secondly ask you idiot brains how many boing planes have crashed this year compared to Airbus...

I know it must be so hard for you guys to see airbus take over boeing like this but such is life so why not just accpet it

Dear "David,"You'r... (Below threshold)

Dear "David,"

You're quoting an article in Mother Jones. You don't think that they might have -- how do I put this delicately -- an AGENDA in trumpeting the "superiority" of a French (yea, EU but really French, let's face it) state-managed industry over an American business with a broad stockholder base?

Quoting Mother Jones for anything is the mark of a lamer.

re: Boeing and Airbus kerfu... (Below threshold)
chuckR:

re: Boeing and Airbus kerfuffles

I'm not happy about either situation. But contrast what is happening in each linked account. Boeing is caught up in a whistleblower suit with the US government. On the other hand, Airbus is apparently able to squash its whistleblower like a bug.

Its taken engineers more than a century to begin to understand how metals work structurally. We are just at the beginning of understanding how composites work and how to maintain/service them. I'm not going to be happy flying in structural composite airplanes. There are still lessons to be learned, and they are likely to be learned the hard way. But, given the choice, I'd rather take my chances in a Boeing Dreamliner than an Airbus. Its not nationalist sentiment either - its an assessment that Boeing, through its long military history, has more experience with composites.

Yeah, like we need more evi... (Below threshold)
moseby:

Yeah, like we need more evidence that everything european is shit.

Dont you know that now Boei... (Below threshold)
Frenchman:

Dont you know that now Boeing is buying part of his new 787 aircraft in europe...by the EADS company owner of Airbus industries(80%). Doors made my SAAB europeen company... Do you know also that a lot of parts of Airbus aircrafts are made in the USA... Boeing and Airbus are no more nationals companies in the production nivel but only in the process. There are truly internationals companies and they make both of them nices aircrafts...

I'm not structural engineer... (Below threshold)
Thom:

I'm not structural engineer so I don't bring anything to the table in that sense, however I do have several friends who are airline pilots. All of the bitch about the differences between how Boeing aircraft handle vs. Airbus controls. I have one friend who routinely says, "If it isn't Boeing, I'm not going".

To scott, if you dont want ... (Below threshold)
David:

To scott, if you dont want to read the article in mother jones, go to google and do a search for it, you might even find it on the foxnews website, its about a court casing taking place in the USA, so its not a french conspiricy.

I suppose Airbus are so unsafe and you guys all know something which all the Airline executives and pilots dont know because why the hell are they buying Airbus planes in the thousands. With regards to composite materials the plane that will be using that material more than any other is the new boeing 787.

So like i said accpet it you guys are such sore losers it makes me laugh, for decades airbus was fine when it was behind boeing but when it takes over suddenly they unsafe, state controlled,,,,what next...and finally to moseby your funny man a real funny intellgent person,,

Hmmm.Frankly I loo... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

Frankly I look at it this way. The USAF standard for maintenance of the B-2 bomber is 1 hour of maintenance for every 1 hour of flight. And that's largely just for the composite body+wings.

I think the Discovery Channel did a bit on this. The problem is that carbon composites aren't a solid metal or alloy, they're essentially layers of carbon impregnated cloth layered in a specific pattern to produce strength and flexibility along precisely set orientations. The issue is that aircraft tend to fly very high so you can get issues of cold and moisture.

If moisture somehow penetrates the carbon layers the cold from attaining high altitude will cause it to form ice, which as everyone knows will cause it to expand. This expansion can cause carbon layers to separate. But this separation is usually very small and doesn't show anything on the surface. So visual inspections, which are the standard in commerical aircraft, won't necessarily show any problems.

*shrug* frankly I don't really care who makes the damn thing. I'm not sanguine about flying on anything commerical that uses massive amounts of carbon fiber.

I work on both Boeing and A... (Below threshold)
Jason:

I work on both Boeing and Airbus aircraft. They both have good and bad attributes. Boeing, although is a superior aircraft because of continuity of systems. Airbus are to jumbled in their design it is like there is no control over how things are processed or, when in service, maintained. Each country that builds its specific system has to put their own spin on things. At the Lazy B their is one spec that everybody follows. As far as business Airbus sells more aircraft because they sell them cheap, as in not for profit the EU subsidises everything heavily once they undercut Boeing's prices and drive them out of commercial aviation you can bet they will jack up their prices

Isn't SAAB a Swedish compan... (Below threshold)

Isn't SAAB a Swedish company that also makes military jet-aircraft, besides some pretty high-performance automobiles? It's not like they're buying doors from IKEA... That, the Euro-subsidized effort to undercut the marketplace, and the fact that they are uncomfortable in my flying-experience means I avoid the Airbus conveyance. I'd rather fly in a giant Soviet-built Antonov An-124, the world's largest operational transport, on a wooden bench next to somebody boiling a goat over an open fire...

OK, all of you who just bad... (Below threshold)
RadicalMan:

OK, all of you who just badmouthed the Airbus, UP against the WALL and SPREAD 'EM! You're now under arrest by the EU "Thought Police" for criminal defamation! You have the right to remain silent (PERIOD!) So, shut your pie holes and off to the gulag with you!

By the way aint it a fact t... (Below threshold)
Saf:

By the way aint it a fact that less than 10% of Americans have a passports, so how the hell have u all become experts on Airbus considering not that many carriers use them locally. The subsidies that you guys keep going on about is in fact loans which have all been paid back with interest.

Stick to boeing in the USA, the rest of the world is moving on now, u guys are kinda irrelavant and your influence will be even less and you will become an even bigger joke once the Iraqi insurgents have finished with ya

Hmmmm.1. "By the w... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmmm.

1. "By the way aint it a fact that less than 10% of Americans have a passports, so how the hell have u all become experts on Airbus considering not that many carriers use them locally."

A number of American national carriers use AirBus. JetBlue uses AirBus exclusively as an example. As for the "passports" schtick. Americans generally don't need them to travel within the United States and associated Territories.

And, in case you weren't aware, America is pretty damn big.

2. "The subsidies that you guys keep going on about is in fact loans which have all been paid back with interest."

Well yes and no. Part of the subsidies are the tax breaks, grants, loans and the fact that several governments own significant percentages of AirBus.

3. "Stick to boeing in the USA, the rest of the world is moving on now, u guys are kinda irrelavant and your influence will be even less and you will become an even bigger joke once the Iraqi insurgents have finished with ya"

Yes. Once those mean Iraqi "insurgents" have "finished" with us.

I'd usually include humorous sarcasm at this point, but it's rather unnecessary. Your meaningless drivel has the rhetorical impact of a windy fart. So enjoy! You're well on your way to becoming as irrelevant on the internet as you undoubtedly are in real life.

It's the little things that makes life happy.

Just like to add one point ... (Below threshold)
David:

Just like to add one point the so called Airbus whistleblower was in fact american citizen but i have no issue with that the point i wanted to inform you all about is that the company he worked for and the chip he is raising issues about is also going to be used on the new boeing 787, dont take my word for it research the case for youselfs, no point in simply reading the article of the telegraph which is a very right wing anti European paper here in the UK.

End of the day we should all be worried about Air safety but when you see unbalanced debates like this with unbalanced people from the american right no one is going to believe it even if it is a genuine issue.

I have become irrelavant on... (Below threshold)
Saf:

I have become irrelavant on the internet. Dam what an insult. Mean Insurgents...well at least they have the balls to stand up and fight not like the coward american soldiers who have to flatten cities with B52's before daring to venture in.....

Airbus is in trouble. How m... (Below threshold)
Dan:

Airbus is in trouble. How many firm orders for the A380 have they gotten in the last 2 year? Just a few, and if the plane doesn't sell what it has to sell to break even (up to at least 300 now), it doesn't have to pay back the R & D loan money. Boeing does not have that luxary. It answers to shareholders. No one wants the thing. Boeing has had more orders for the 747 as of late!

Using untested (by time) hi... (Below threshold)
Toolie:

Using untested (by time) high tech experimental materials to build a commercial airliner is a VERY bad idea. Using 'fly by wire' technology instead of simple and relatively foolproof mechanics on a commercial airliner is a VERY bad idea. It is also unneccesary as pilots do not need the "help" from the computer stabilizers. I predict there will be lots of AirBus problems in the coming years. Cheap does not equal good, and you don't want cheap when you are talking about keeping people alive and flying safely.

I think a great example of ... (Below threshold)

I think a great example of a mistake was the Concord. Like the 380 Boeing realized there wouldn't be a market for supersonic transport. The 380 will sell, but it will NEVER be what the 747 was during its time!

GBone

Hmmmm!....I have to say tha... (Below threshold)
RICK:

Hmmmm!....I have to say that I've read your various comments on Airbus planes versus Boeing planes with both ammusement & yet a sense of pity!
I'm British and very proud of it!...Something you Americans should learn is that the jet engine was a German & British invention (WWll) that was developed by GE of the USA, the Avro Vulcan V bomber (British) was the first delta wing bomber, the Comet airliner (British) was an airliner that was ahead of its time (The first jet airliner) and despite falling out of the sky in its early days, went on to become a great airliner, still used by the RAF today!..Boeing developed the 707 after learning from the mistakes made by the Brits!...In a nutshell, Airbus's use of carbon fibre in airliner development is a first and I have no doubt that Boeing once again will learn by other manufacturer's mistakes!..An American serviceman once told me that "You Brits are so backward!"...What a statement to make and what an uneducated idiot!...It's time that you Americans learnt that there is life and technology outside of America!...Europeans can build good aircraft & good cars too!....Have no doubts on that, boys & girls!
One more thing! - I remember hearing horror stories of rivet guns being left in the wings of Boeing aircraft and the 737, although being the worlds most popular airliner, it has a somewhat dubious reputation!!!

I am amazed at the "opinion... (Below threshold)
GW:

I am amazed at the "opinions" of people whose expertise on an aircraft extends to being able to find their assigned seat and where the lavs are. The guy who described the motion of an Airbus in the aft section was a classic. All of a sudden this passenger is now a safety expert because for the first time he stepped to the rear of an Airbus and detected its unsual characteristic motion. He then decides that the Airbus is unsafe. What an idiot....
As a half assed expert, I have flown the A-320 for about a thousand hours. Yes, it has some peculiar glitches, but as a pilot I would not hesitate to get on one again. In the final analysis my opinion, as pilot in command of the aircraft, IS THE ONLY OPINION THAT COUNTS!
As to crashes and engineering safety, I think the record of the airlines worldwide is pretty damn good considering the number of operations every day... a hell of lot better than highway safety statistics. Most people would not be able to tell what brand aircraft they are on without reading the safety data card in the backseat pocket....assuming they ever have....so their opinions are like anuses...and just about as useful.

The only reason Air subsidy... (Below threshold)
Air Subsidy:

The only reason Air subsidy even exits is due to massive government handouts. Without them, Airbus would be but another casuality of European style socialism.

I am not an engineer - stru... (Below threshold)
Ignatius:

I am not an engineer - structural or otherwise and am not American nor British. I am a South African citizen and our flag carrier SAA flies equipment from both Boeing and Airbus. I have flown many times on different models of both companies. From a passenger point of view, I prefer the Boeing 737-800 NG to the Airbus A319. However, I enjoy the A340-600 more than the 747-400. I am always amazed by the A340's quiteness and smoothness.

As regards the technologies used by the two companies on these large jets, I am sure they would not have passed certification had they not been deemed to be 'safe'.




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