Friday, May 30, 2008

The Peter Principle at Work

Remember the Peter Principle, which states that in any organization, an individual will rise to his level of incompetence? It seems that it struck Abu Dhabi's flagship Etihad Airways in epidemic fashion last November.

The airline was about to take delivery of a brand new Airbus A340-600 at the Airbus facility in Toulouse, France. They sent a crew of nine of their most competent and highly trained employees to conduct the pre-acceptance engine runup tests – and had a slight "industrial accident."

At first, news of the incident was suppressed, as its widespread release would have constituted a major embarrassment to Arab Muslims. However, word began to leak out, so Airbus released this statement:
Industrial accident at Airbus facility
15 November 2007

Airbus deeply regrets to confirm that an accident occurred at its Saint-Martin site in Toulouse this afternoon.

The accident occurred at 5:00 pm local time, when engine-run-ups were being carried out on an A340-600, MSN 856, which was due to be delivered to Etihad in the coming days.

There were nine persons on board out of them five people sustained injuries. There are no fatalities.

At this time, recovery operations are still in progress and Airbus staff is working closely with the emergency services and local authorities at the site.

Airbus expresses its sympathy to the families and friends of the persons concerned.

Airbus will provide the full support to the official investigation authorities in France.

The next day, they released this somewhat more detailed account:
Industrial accident at Airbus facility - Saint Martin site
16 November 2007

Following the regrettable accident that occurred at the Airbus Saint-Martin site (close to Toulouse) yesterday 15th November at 5 pm local time, Airbus reports that of the five injured people, three remain in hospital. Two were released between yesterday night and this morning. Of the three persons remaining in hospital, one is an employee of Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies (ADAT), a service provider for Etihad Airways, and two are Airbus employees. Airbus and ADAT are providing all necessary support to the persons involved and their families.

The accident involved an A340-600 (MSN 856), which was carrying out engine-run-ups and was due to be delivered to Etihad in the coming days.

An investigation has started yesterday night and Airbus is providing full support to the official investigation authorities in France.

Ground tests including engine-run-ups are a normal procedure on all Airbus aircraft.

Airbus expresses its sympathy and support to the families and friends of the persons concerned.

Editors’ note: Airbus will release further information as soon as it is available.

Then, further details, along with pictures, began to leak out.

First came these 6 pictures from the Airline World blog:

Aren't cellphone cameras handy?

Then, little by little, the details of what happened leaked out, too.

You can read Dr. Jack Wheeler's recent report on To The Point News here:
Written by To The Point News
Friday, 16 May 2008

The brand spanking new Airbus 340-600, the largest passenger airplane ever built, sat in its hangar in Toulouse, France without a single hour of airtime. Enter the Arab flight crew of Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies (ADAT) to conduct pre-delivery tests on the ground, such as engine runups, prior to delivery to Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi. The date was November 15, 2007.

The ADAT crew taxied the A340-600 to the run-up area. Then they took all four engines to takeoff power with a virtually empty aircraft. Not having read the run-up manuals, they had no clue just how light an empty A340-600 really is.

The takeoff warning horn was blaring away in the cockpit because they had all 4 engines at full power. The aircraft computers thought they were trying to takeoff but it had not been configured properly (flaps/slats, etc.) Then one of the ADAT crew decided to pull the circuit breaker on the Ground Proximity Sensor to silence the alarm.

This fools the aircraft into thinking it is in the air.

The computers automatically released all the brakes and set the aircraft rocketing forward. The ADAT crew had no idea that this is a safety feature so that pilots can't land with the brakes on.

Not one member of the seven-man Arab crew was smart enough to throttle back the engines from their max power setting, so the $80 million brand-new aircraft crashed into a blast barrier, totaling it.

The extent of injuries to the crew is unknown, for there has been a news blackout in the major media in France and elsewhere. Coverage of the story was deemed insulting to Moslem Arabs. Finally, the photos are starting to leak out.

What can one say?

It's hard to hire good help.


  1. Since I don't want to be known as a racist, I am going to refrain from any further comment.
    Old Camp Cook

  2. Yes, this incident does leave one somewhat at a loss for words, doesn't it?

  3. Now imagine one of those things would fly into a nuclear power station.

    Still convinced that nuclear energy is the way to go?