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Refueling Boom Falls off Airbus A330 Tanker During Test Flight

Sep. 11, 2012 - 07:14AM   |  
By ANDREW CHUTER   |   Comments
An Airbus A330 refueling tanker is shown in April 2011 at the production plant in Blagnac, France.
An Airbus A330 refueling tanker is shown in April 2011 at the production plant in Blagnac, France. (File photo / Agence France-Presse)
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LONDON — An Airbus Military A330 tanker’s refueling boom fell off during a test flight over Spain, Airbus said.

The plane, scheduled to be delivered to the United Arab Emirates later this month, was flying in a region between Madrid and Portugal when the incident happened at 7:30 p.m. local time Sept. 10.

An Airbus Military spokesman said it was “too early” to give any indication as to the cause of the mishap.

The spokesman said Airbus had “advised the Royal Australian Air Force as a precautionary measure to stop using the boom until further investigations had taken place.”

The RAAF is the launch customer for the boom-equipped A330 and has four of the five aircraft it ordered in-service. The aircraft also has Cobham-supplied probe refueling systems fitted.

The UAE aircraft was flying at 27,000 feet conducting a series of tests, including deploying the boom, when the system fell away at the point where it links to the fuselage.

Nobody on the ground or in the aircraft was injured and the A330 returned, with minor damage, to the Airbus base at Getafe, near Madrid.

The boom was recovered Sept. 11. Company executives were scheduled to hold a news conference later Sept. 11 at the ongoing Berlin air show.

The Airbus Military crew manning the A330 was deploying the boom when it fell from the fuselage, people familiar with the incident said.

It’s the second time the Airbus-developed boom has been involved in a serious in-flight incident. In early 2011 the boom of an A330 multi-role tanker transport destined for delivery to the RAAF detached during a training flight refueling a Portuguese Lockheed Martin F-16 over the Atlantic Ocean.

The Airbus spokesman said the incidents weren’t related.

“A fix has been implemented to resolve that [previous] issue involving the installation of a warning on the MRTT’s control system if the refueling approaches the edge of its cleared envelope,” he said.

Britain’s Royal Air Force has started taking delivery of the MRTT machines. Its version, known as the Voyager, does not use a boom but relies on the Cobham probe.

The first aircraft destined to fulfill a Royal Saudi Air Force order has been delivered and is conducting crew training in Spain.

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