Gogo 2Ku antenna radome causes issues for the Airbus A220

Transport Canada has published an Airworthiness Policy for Airbus A220 operators using Gogo’s 2Ku antenna. The reason for the guideline is that vortices generated by the Gogo 2Ku radome have shifted the emergency transmitter antennas. It’s a problem that particular WiFi antenna has faced before.

The radome on the A220 causes the ELT antenna to come loose. Two losses have been reported to Transport Canada so far. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Easy flying

Issue airworthiness directive

Transport Canada this week issued an Airworthiness Policy (AD) related to problems with the Airbus A220. In particular, the aircraft’s in-flight WLAN radome, which is supplied as a Gogo 2Ku product as a line-fit option, causes eddies that disrupt the aircraft’s ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) antenna.

The controller claims to have received two reports of loss of ELTs due to the vibration. In one case, the outgoing ELT antenna caused damage to the rear of the A220. As a result, the regulator is demanding that airlines swap their ELTs every 2,500 flight hours.

In the document, Transport Canada says:

“Two ELT antenna failures have been reported, including a case where the antenna left the aircraft and slightly damaged the vertical stabilizer skin. The investigation found that these ELT antenna failures were caused by vibration loads caused by air vortices emitted by the Gogo 2Ku antenna radome. If not corrected, this situation can lead to the loss of the ELT antenna and the development of fuselage cracks, which can result in the cabin pressure being unable to be maintained. “

Operators must replace the ELT antennas every 2,500 flight hours until a workaround is developed. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Easy flying

The directive requires corrective action on the part of the airlines, namely the removal and replacement of the ELT. Aircraft with 3,500 flight hours or more with the same ELT must replace the antenna within 200 flight hours. Those with 1,650 to 3,500 hours will have to complete the replacement within 850 hours, and those with less flight time will need to replace it before they reach 2,500 hours of flight time.

Effective April 1, 2021, the Airworthiness Directive will apply to all A220-100 and -300 registered in Canada, as well as those flying into Canadian airspace. This means Air Canada and Delta Air Lines are affected, with 17 and 48 being of the type in each fleet, respectively. JetBlue does not currently fly to Canada but could be affected if the FAA decides to duplicate the AD.

An old go-go problem

The ELT is mounted behind the Gogo 2Ku antenna directly in front of the vertical stabilizer. It appears that the way the air moves around the gogo radome creates vibrations behind its position, causing the ELT to loosen.

Image: Delta Air Lines / Simple flying

The concern is not as much about the potential for loss of the ELT as it is a relatively inexpensive part and a straightforward process to replace. However, the vibration that comes off can damage the hull. In the worst case, this can relieve the pressure in the cabin.

However, this is not a new problem for the gogo radome. As already reported in PaxEx.Aero in 2018, EASA has issued an airworthiness guideline for a very similar problem. Back then, the Gogo 2Ku antenna was causing excessive vibration on some A330 and A340.

For now, operators will have to keep replacing their ELTs until a workaround is found. With Gogo, now owned by the powerful Intelsat, an alternative radome may be offered in the long term.

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