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Taiwan crash raises questions about Airbus A-300

Airbus A-300
Airbus A-300  

In this story:

February 16, 1998
Web posted at: 11:14 p.m. EST (0414 GMT)

From Correspondent Christine Negroni

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The crash of China Airlines Flight 676 on Taiwan Monday killing 205 people was the fourth involving an Airbus A-300 wide-body jet, and all occurred as the planes were trying to land.

Just five months ago, a Garuda Indonesian Airways A-300 crashed 19 miles from an Indonesian airport, killing 234 people.

vxtreme CNN's Christine Negroni reports.

In September 1992, a Pakistan International A-300 slammed into a mountain on its approach to an airport in Nepal, killing 167 people.

Officials with Airbus Industrie, the manufacturer of the jet, tell CNN that there is no significance to the similarities in the accidents. They say, instead, that landing is the riskiest part of a flight.

But investigators are sure to review these crashes, along with another China Airlines A-300 crash in Nagoya, Japan, in 1994 that killed 264 people.

Taiwan crash
Wreckage from China Airlines Monday crash killing 205  

Japanese investigators determined that the pilots in the Nagoya crash attempted to abort their landing and fly the plane manually without realizing that the autopilot was still engaged.

The investigators cited inadequate training for the crew as a factor in the crash, prompting China Airlines to begin a safety program that included extensive retraining for its pilots.

Airbus' automation questioned

Aviation officials in the United States, meanwhile, have expressed their own concerns about the design of the automated system on the Airbus.

"There have been issues with the design of the Airbus autopilots having to do with the automation philosophy Airbus uses," says professor John Hansman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Again, we don't know whether that's related to this accident."

Airbus Industrie in Toulouse, France, produces six different aircraft, which are known for their highly automated cockpits.

But the trend toward more sophisticated, computerized flight is controversial. By trying to eliminate pilot error as a potential hazard, some fear that the airplane has become too sophisticated.

Whatever the cause of the fatal crash of China Airlines Flight 676, the debate is certain to continue.


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