Airbus A380 safety test injures 33

Monday, March 27, 2006

Thirty-three people were injured during a test of the Airbus A380, a double decker superjumbo jet, in Hamburg, Germany. Injuries include friction burns from sliding down the escape ramps and one broken leg. 853 volunteer "passengers" and 20 crew members took about 80 seconds to evacuate the aircraft, beating the test's requirements by 10 seconds and over 200 people "rescued". Only eight of the plane's sixteen exits were used, as required by the test; the crew members were not told in advance which doors would open. The test was carried out in a dark hangar and the plane's aisles were littered with debris to simulate actual emergency conditions.

The A380's first landing on April 27, 2005

The A380 will be the world's largest passenger airliner, almost twice as large as the current largest airliner, the Boeing 747. Airbus has had 159 planes on order by 16 customers, and the first A380s will go to Singapore Airlines towards the end of the year.

This test was important to Airbus, as in August 2005 an Airbus A340 overshot the runway and 300 people escaped before the plane burst into flames. infrared camera recordings of the test will be analyzed by authorities such as the European Aviation Safety Agency, while the US Federal Aviation Administration was present during the test. The European Aviation Safety Agency will confirm the test results this week; Airbus intends to repeat the test on Saturday if the aviation agency fails this attempt.

The volunteers, who were paid 60 euros (about US$72) and a meal, were from Airbus staff, sports clubs, and dancing clubs in the Hamburg area where the test took place. Airbus recruited people from clubs in order to get volunteers in good physical shape.

Two days later, the American and European aviation authorities (the FAA and EASA, respectively) officially certified the A380 to carry 853 passengers. This certification demonstrated that the test procedures use by Airbus met their respective standards.