Sunday, July 10, 2016

Boeing, Airbus Clash Over Safety System: Aircraft makers disagree about need to require feature that helps prevent runway overruns -Kathryn's Report

The Wall Street Journal
July 10, 2016 8:47 p.m. ET

LONDON—Leaders of Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE like to say they don’t compete over safety, and that message is likely to reverberate throughout the international air show that begins Monday at a suburban airport near here.

But crash experts believe that isn’t the case when it comes to devising ways to prevent one of the most common types of airliner accidents: planes rolling off the sides or ends of runways during landings.

Runway excursions, as they are called, have been the first or second most frequent category of commercial-aviation accidents world-wide for well over 15 years, prompting a series of maneuvers by both companies to try to grab the lead in combating the hazards.

These runway events don’t result in the largest number of fatalities, though they can end with everything from collapsed landing gears to fractured fuselages. By some measures, sliding off a strip causes roughly one-fifth of all global airline accidents that produce substantial aircraft damage.

The two leading jet makers remain at loggerheads about a fundamental point: the need for joint U.S.-European technical standards to enhance pilot awareness about the dangers of touching down too fast or too far down a runway.

Since 2009, Airbus has marketed a proprietary system, now installed on about 430 airliners, that automatically assesses speed, altitude, flight-control settings, runway topography, winds and parameters eight times per second. The goal is to warn pilots beforehand that they likely won’t be able to safely stop on a runway, and automatically exert maximum braking force on the ground when necessary.

Chicago-based Boeing hasn’t developed its own offering, but is working with partners.

What had been a behind-the-scenes tussle is now becoming more public, because Airbus and European aviation authorities are stepping up efforts to promote common standards and new runway safeguards.

In an interview last month, Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Aviation Safety Agency, said Airbus initially asked it to mandate its proprietary technology. Mr. Ky said EASA told Airbus it wasn’t going to mandate its technology.

But EASA is pushing ahead with a rule that is likely to require installation of some new unspecified technology, at least on the production line, according to Mr. Ky.

European technical advisers to EASA, meanwhile, expect to issue detailed engineering standards in this area by February.

U.S. regulators have responded by arguing that at this point, any international standard runs the risk of being skewed to unfairly benefit Airbus.

“We haven’t been convinced a standard is necessary,” said Bruce DeCleene, a manager at the Federal Aviation Administration. “We have a lot of airplanes that already have” various runway excursion protections on board, without waiting for FAA mandates, he said on the sidelines of an industry conference last month.

A Boeing spokesman said “we endorse a coordinated, international approach,” but regulations “should not prescribe one technology or another” to achieve safety goals.

Fallout from the friction, according to people familiar with the details, has roiled suppliers and other segments of the industry torn about what direction to take. Honeywell International Corp., for example, has a competing warning system that also is in the marketplace and has been voluntarily adopted by some carriers on certain Boeing models.

Last month, Lou Volchansky, an FAA technical manager, said the FAA isn’t likely to follow Europe’s lead because “this is something that’s not on a safety critical path.”

But Mr. Volchansky added that the FAA does “recognize the need for” runway-excursion protections, and U.S. carriers can embrace the Airbus solution as long as they get necessary approvals.

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