Thai Airways inspects Airbus A330 fleet

BANGKOK — Thai Airways said Friday it will inspect its entire Airbus A330 fleet after this week’s accident involving a model that Europe’s air safety authority had warned years ago has a defective part in its landing gear.

Airbus said it has launched a parallel investigation.

Airline officials said they had taken the recommended precautions for Airbus A330-300s, but were investigating why the maintenance failed to prevent a mishap outlined in a June 2011 directive from the European Aviation Safety Agency.

Sunday’s flight from Guangzhou, China, landed smoothly at Bangkok’s international airport, but a preliminary investigation showed that its right-side landing gear collapsed as it sped down the runway, said Montree Jumrieng, executive vice president for Thai Airway’s technical department.

The plane then skidded off the runway as sparks flew from an engine scraping against the ground. Fourteen people were injured, most while evacuating an emergency slides.

“We have ordered an inspection on the landing gear of our entire Airbus A330 fleet,” said Montree. “So far, we have not found any other problems.”

The 2011 directive from EASA warned that certain models of Airbus’ A330 and A340 planes had “bogie beams” susceptible to “premature fracture.” The bogie beam is an axle connecting the wheels on an aircraft’s landing gear.

The directive warned that if the landing gear cracked under high speed it could “result in the airplane departing the runway, or in the bogie detaching from the airplane, or main landing gear collapse — which could cause structural damage to the airplane and injury to the occupants.”

Montree said Thai Airways followed EASA’s mandate to inspect A330 bogie beams every two years and replace then after 10 years, more frequently than in other aircraft.

“We took all the precautions according to the airworthiness directive,” he said, adding that inspectors had never detected cracked bogie beams but had replaced several found to be rusty.

The plane involved in Sunday’s accident was 18 years old and among the first A330s the airline purchased in 1995, he said. Its bogie beam was last replaced in 2004 and due for new ones in 2014.

Airbus spokesman Justin Dubon said he could not comment on whether the landing gear was to blame, or how many other Airbus A330s have experienced similar problems.

“An official investigation is under way,” Dubon said from Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France. “Any communication is the exclusive privilege of the investigators in charge.”

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