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Airlines urged to tighten Airbus A320 checks after COVID storage

Wed 23rd June, 2021 4:52pm
By Tim Hepher
    PARIS, June 23 (Reuters) - Regulators have called for more
rigorous checks when pulling some Airbus  AIR.PA  jets out of
pandemic storage, following flawed cockpit readings that can
suggest blocked sensors.
    Pilots rely on airspeed readings derived from external
probes known as pitot tubes, which can become blocked by insect
nests or dirt if they are not properly sealed during storage.
    The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said in a
safety directive covering the Airbus A320 family that "an
increasing number of operational disruptions have been reported
due to airspeed discrepancies" as they return to the air.
    Those reports prompted Airbus to carry out further computer
simulations which suggested that problems with two out of three
sensors may affect the plane's stability during take-off, though
none of these events happened in operations, EASA said.
    An Airbus spokesman said these actions were precautionary.
    EASA first reported an "alarming" rise last August in the
general number of cases of unreliable cockpit indications during
the first flight of jets leaving storage. It called on operators
of all makes and models of passenger aircraft to be vigilant.
    The unprecedented number of aircraft grounded as lockdowns
blocked air travel - at one point reaching two-thirds of the
global fleet - had already created a spike in problems as
airlines began returning them to service last year.*:nL4N2IQ07U
    Pilot rustiness, maintenance errors and a loss of expertise
in the supply chain due to job cuts have also raised concerns.
    Airbus says it has set up a COVID-19 safety task force aimed
at safely rebooting activities from airlines to factories.
    Boeing Co  BA.N  has previously said extensive preparations
must be carried out to return jets to service from long-term
    Blocked pitot tubes, which are a routine hazard on most
civil and military aircraft, are just one item on a list of
potential snags after months of storage - along with rodents,
bird nests and even snakes and scorpions in desert parking
    Ducts that carry air from the front of most engines to the
cabin's air-conditioning systems can also be contaminated.
    Airbus has beefed up audits of its supply chain following
the crisis. In March, it warned suppliers of risks from parts
being stored incorrectly or corroding, industry sources said.
    It also raised the alarm over a range of risks including
"foreign object damage" caused by parts or tools lying around
unnoticed because of greater social distancing in factories.

 (Reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris
Editing by Matthew Lewis)
 ((; +33 1 49 49 54 52; Reuters
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