January 18th in Aviation History
Introduction of the Airbus A380:
On the 18th of January, 2005, the world saw the first prototype of the largest passenger jet in commercial aviation history. The double decker, super jumbo called the A380 was revealed in Toulouse, France. The four engine mammoth can seat more than a 500 passengers in a typical two class configuration. And it is certified to carry a whopping 853 passengers in an all economy configuration. The A380 was primarily launched to challenge the dominance of the Boeing 747 in the wide-body, long haul market. But turned out, the era of super jumbos was gone. And even though the A380 was an engineering marvel, it became a financial disaster for Airbus. Airbus received 251 firm orders of which 240 have been delivered. Production of the A380’s would end in 2021. The largest A380 operator is Emirates Airlines with 123 ordered. Airbus, with the final sales would barely break even the initial investment costs. In any case, the A380 remains an important part of Aviation history and an easily recognizable icon in the sky.
China Southwest Airlines Flight 4146:
China Southwest Airlines Flight 4146 was a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Beijing to Chongqing. On the 18th of January, 1988, the flight was operated by an Ilyushin Il-18D turboprop. There were 98 passengers and 10 crew on board. Near its destination, the number 4 engine caught fire. The fire could not be put out and the engine fell off as the engine mounting got burnt. This resulted in a loss of control of the aircraft and it crashed and burst into flames. All 108 occupants of the Il-18 perished in the crash. The engine fire was the result of an oil leak. The engine was shut down and its propeller feathered due to severe vibrations. However, the starter/generator fitted to the engine had overheated to such an extent that it had burnt the tube supplying oil at high pressure to feather the propeller. When the crew feathered the propeller, the tube burst and the leaking oil caught fire.
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