An EADS A330-based aerial refueler lost its boom during a test flight for a second time Sept. 10, raising questions about whether the system could have an inherent design problem.
During the incident, the boom was in its extended position, according to Domingo Urena-Raso, CEO of Airbus Military, who briefed reporters Sept. 11. The tanker, which was bound for delivery to the United Arab Emirates at the end of the month, was undergoing a post-production checkout flight.
“I prefer to have these types of incidents now … before they get delivered to the customers," the CEO said. The aircraft suffered minimal damage apart from the loss of the boom. But, the fuselage is intact and largely undamaged, company officials say.
There was no receiver aircraft present, unlike the first boom-loss incident in early 2011. Also unlike that mishap, the boom from the most recent flight has been located in the countryside of Spain near the Portugal border. In 2011, the boom fell into the sea.
In the earlier incident, the cause was clear. The receiver and boom had too much pressure on the refueling nozzle, which snapped as it was designed to do. But, the pressure on the boom prompted it to swing up under the fuselage, causing damage to the airframe.
The A330 tanker was EADS' first widebody refueler, and back-to-back incidents raise questions about whether there was operator error or, potentially, a design issue. Company officials are investing the issue and have advised operators -- Australia has a small fleet -- not to use the boom when flying the aircraft.