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Japan Airlines crash: How the Airbus A350’s fireproofing helped all 379 passengers survive

Simon Calder’s Travel

A lightweight carbon-composite fibre was dubbed a “game changer” for the Airbus A350 when it first entered the sector in the 2010s. Airbus called the carbon-fibre skin “more burn-through resistant than a metallic equivalent”.

But dramatic images of a Japan Airlines Airbus burning from nose to tail immediately after it collided with a coast guard jet on a Japanese runway has aviation experts both stunned and worried about the safety challenges of new composite materials.

This is the first time the most modern passenger jet known to humankind was tested in an accident, demonstrating the endurance of its body made of carbon fibre reinforced polymers (CFRPs) and potentially providing vital technological insights into the aviation industry’s favourite jet.

Six experts from the Japan Transport Safety Board reached the spot at Haneda airport in Tokyo to examine what remained of the aircraft on Wednesday as photos showed the severely damaged A350’s wings as the only identifiable pieces remaining of the plane’s charred and broken fuselage.

Aerial footage of Japan aircraft wreckage reveals extent of deadly plane fire

It’s a stark image, but Airbus suggests the endurance of the fuselage may actually be to thank for giving the Japan Airlines cabin crew precious time to evacuate all passengers.

Jon Ostrower, the editor-in-chief of The Air Current, an aviation analysis and reporting service, calls the massive collision the “first real test for [this] modern aircraft”. He says the incident is the first in commercial aviation history where an aircraft body made out of carbon fibre has been subjected to a major real-world fire.

The accident will provide “a massive trove of data” on how the material can withstand flames, he says.

The premier commercial passenger aircraft is assembled at Airbus’s final assembly line in Toulouse and its sections are manufactured at different sites around Europe, officials from the top-tier aerospace corporation said.

An employee works at the Airbus A350 assembly site, in Colomiers near Toulouse, south-western France

(AFP via Getty Images)

Over 70 per cent of the total airframe, which was left exposed on the Haneda tarmac on Monday, is made from advanced materials including composite materials, titanium and modern aluminium alloy, an Airbus spokesperson tells The Independent.

Officials at Airbus say they…

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