Shortly after a night departure from London Heathrow in October, a British Airways Airbus A319-131 on a flight to Budapest was approaching FL200 in clear weather when there was an audible ‘clunk’ and the flight deck became dark, with a number of electrical systems and flight displays lost.
Displays lost included the captain’s and first officer’s primary flight and navigation displays and one of 2 electronic centralized aircraft monitor (ECAM) displays, leaving only one ECAM; also lost were the autopilot, autothrust, intercom and most flight deck lighting, including that of overhead and pedestal panels.
The captain took manual control and maintained the aircraft attitude by reference to the external night horizon, the standby horizon and those other standby instruments that he was able to see (it is probable that the electrically-driven standby horizon was not powered or lighted but might have remained useable for 5 minutes due to the gyro’s inertia.
The captain transmitted a MAYDAY on VHF but this was not received by ATC because the radio was no longer powered. The first officer carried out the ECAM actions and the primary flight instruments and most other systems were restored. The aircraft was in the degraded condition for a period of about 2 minutes.
Communication with ATC was regained and the crew were allocated a holding pattern while they reviewed the status of the aircraft. A number of systems remained inoperative including the captain’s windshield and window heat. The aircraft was in the hold for some 40 minutes following which the flight was continued to Budapest, where the first officer performed the landing, during which the flight crew noted a thrust reverser caution. After landing, all the remaining affected systems were successfully reset by a maintenance engineer and the aircraft continued in operation for 6 days with no further electrical failures.
The incident was reported under the UK Mandatory Occurrence Reporting Scheme and the aircraft was then taken out of service for investigation under AAIB supervision. The aircraft was returned to service and has continued in operation without any further reports of similar malfunctions. The AAIB is investigating this with the cooperation of the aircraft manufacturer and the operator. A further report will be published.
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