Air Transat Flight 961

Infobox Aircraft accident
name = Air Transat Flight 961
Date=March 6, 2005
Type=Rudder Failure in flight, stress fracture
Site=Juan Gualberto Gomez Airport, Cuba
Fatalities= 0
Injuries= 0
Aircraft Type=Airbus A310-308
Origin=Juan Gualberto Gomez Airport, Varadero,Cuba
Destination=Jean Lesage Airport, Quebec, Quebec, Canada
Operator=Air Transat
Tail Number=Airreg|C|GPAT
Survivors =271 (all)

Air Transat Flight 961 was a flight from Varadero, Cuba to Quebec City, Canada on March 6, 2005. The aircraft experienced a structural failure in which the rudder detached in flight. The flight crew were able to regain enough control of the aircraft to return safely to Varadero.

The investigation that followed determined that the manufacturer's inspection procedure for the composite rudder was not adequate.cite web
title = Report Number A05F0047
publisher = Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB)
date = 2007-11-22
url =
accessdate = 2008-08-26
] Inspection procedures for composites structures on airliners were changed because of this accident.

The event

The Airbus A310-308 operating the flight wore the registration C-GPAT and first flew on September 24, 1991. The airplane had previously flown with Emirates Airline before joining the rapidly growing fleet of Canadian tour operator Air Transat in 2001.

Flight 961 was a routine scheduled commercial flight carrying 262 passengers and 9 crew from Varadero, Cuba to Quebec City on March 6, 2005. At 2:48 am EST, flight 961 powered into the skies above Cuba. The flight climbed to its initial cruising altitude of convert|35000|ft|m|abbr=on and the flight attendants began the inflight service. All was normal for the passengers and crew of flight 961. Then, suddenly, at 3:02 am, the aircraft began a dutch roll after a bang shuddered the aircraft violently. The plane climbed until the crew overcame the Dutch roll by descending. The aircraft attempted to divert to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport but Air Transat operations told the crew that returning to Varadero would be the more prudent option. There were no warnings on the flightdeck indicating a rudder problem or a yaw damper problem. The plane landed safely at 4:19 am. Upon parking at the gate, the crew did another walk around inspection to narrow down the cause of the incident. The inspection revealed that the entire rudder had broken away from the tail of the aircraft.


Although most of the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were erased due to the long span of time in which the incident occurred, there were several findings as to the cause of the incident. The aircraft probably had a stress fracture in the tail that went unnoticed for several flights prior to the incident flight and the A310 does not have a mechanism in the tail that suspends the growth of the fracture(s).

Composite rudder controversy

After the crash of "American 587", the use of composite rudders was questioned.cite news |title=Airbus inspection program inadequate at time of incident: Board |url= |publisher= "Toronto Star" | |date= November 23, 2007| ] The durability of it was questioned. Air Transat flight 961 provided new insights into rudder problems on Airbus A300-600, Airbus A300-600R, and Airbus A310 aircraft. The findings of the problems on flight 961 are still being investigated and applied to similar incidents and accidents.


The aircraft, fin 303, is still flying with Air Transat.


External links

* [ What made an Airbus rudder snap in mid-air?] - "The Guardian", March 31 2005.

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