Free Press Journal

Egypt plane crash: Airbus’ A320 is workhorse of the skies


Paris: The Airbus A320, the model of the EgyptAir plane that crashed in the Mediterranean today, is one of the most common planes in service around the world today.

Some key facts about it: Similar to the Boeing 737, the single-aisle, twin-engine jet is used to connect cities that are between one and five hours apart.

The A320 is generally considered one of the safest passenger planes in service. Airbus says it has had 11 crashes with fatalities, on top of the Germanwings plane deliberately brought down by co-pilot Andreas Lubitz in March 2015.

Overall, the A320 registered just 0.14 fatal accidents per million takeoffs, according to a Boeing safety analysis published last year. – The first A320 entered service in 1988.

– There are nearly 4,000 A320s in operation worldwide.

– Airbus, a European plane-making group based in Toulouse, France, also makes nearly identical versions of the A320: the smaller A318 and A319 and the stretched A321. The entire fleet has accumulated nearly 180 million flight hours in over 98 million flights.

– The plane is certified to fly up to 39,000 feet, its maximum altitude before its rate of climb begins to erode.

The plane has an absolute flight limit of 42,000 feet.

11.09pm local time (9.09pm GMT) Wednesday: EgyptAir flight MS804 with 56 passengers and 10 crew members departs Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport bound for Cairo.

2.24am Greek time (11.24 GMT) Thursday: Airbus A320 enters the Greek air traffic control area, also known as the flight information region (FIR).

The plane was identified and approved on its flight course before passing into the next section of air traffic control where it was approved by the controller for the exit point of the Greek FIR.

00.05 GMT: The last communication traffic controllers had with the pilot found him in good spirits. The captain ‘was in a good mood and gave thanks in Greek’ when authorised to exit the Athens FIR.

00.27 GMT: Air traffic controllers try to contact the pilot again for the handover of the plane to Cairo’s area of responsibility, but despite ‘repeated calls, the aircraft did not respond’.

Air traffic control called on the emergency frequency and again there was no response.

00.29am GMT: The aircraft crosses over the exit point of the Athens air traffic control area.

00.29.40secs GMT: The jet vanishes from radar 170 miles from the Egyptian coast.