Saturday, March 07, 2009

Accident Report Finds Problems with Airbus Software

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has released an interim report into the accident involving a Qantas Airbus A330-303 off Learmonth Western Australia on 7 October 2008 ("In-flight upset, VH-QPA, Airbus A330-303, 154 km west of Learmonth, Western Australia", AO-2008-070, ATSB, 7 October 2008 "). It appears spikes in sensor data caused the aircraft's flight control computers to make the plane pitch-down violently, seriously injuring 12 people on board. This is an interim report, but will make interesting reading for those working and teaching safety critical software. The crew was unable to read some of the error message displays in the cockpit, as so many messages were generated they scrolled off the screen. The software of the flight computers is being changed to filter out spikes better. The cause of the spikes is still unknown. But other similar incidents have occurred in the same area of Western Australia and possible interference from the Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station is being investigated.

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