A380 inspections will check for cracks in wing components

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All Airbus A380 aircraft are to be inspected following the discovery of cracks in wing components.

Following an original call for the inspection of 20 Airbus A380 aircraft at the end of January, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has now ordered Airbus to inspect all 68 A380 Airbus superjumbos currently in service.

EASA issued an Airworthiness Directive yesterday, stating that an unscheduled internal inspection of an A380 wing revealed some rib feet with ’type-one’ cracks originating from the rib to skin panel attachment holes.

Further inspections were carried out on other aircraft that confirmed the existence of this type of cracks.

In Airworthiness Directive 2012-0026, EASA stated: ‘During one of those inspections, a new form of rib foot cracking originating from the forward and aft edges of the vertical web of the rib feet has been identified. This [type-two] condition, if not detected and corrected, may lead to reduction of the structural integrity of the aeroplane.’

Inspection schedule

Aircraft that have accumulated less than 1,216 flights will have to be inspected upon accumulation of 1,300 flights. Aircraft that have accumulated between 1,216 and 1,384 flights are to be inspected within six weeks of 13 February, and aircraft that have completed more than 1,384 flights will have to be inspected within three weeks of this date.

In accordance with EASA, Airbus has established a repair scheme if cracks are found during the inspection. Airbus is also working towards a long-term fix,which will be defined by the summer.

Chris Yates, independent aviation consultant, said: ‘The inspection regime relates directly to a series of L-shaped brackets attaching the outer skin of the wing to the rib structure.

‘Examination of these small components on early delivery of Airbus A380 reveals tiny cracking which could potentially weaken the wing structure over a considerable length of time,’ he said.

Yates stressed that this is a relatively minor issue that does not impact the overall integrity of the aircraft.

Qantas statement

Australian carrier Qantas has issued a statement regarding the discovery of cracks in one of its A380 aircraft during routine checks in early January.

The aircraft had experienced severe turbulence and Airbus is said to have requested additional precautionary inspections of the aircraft’s wings.  

A spokesperson from Qantas said minor cracking had been found on some wing rib feet.

In a statement, Qantas said: ‘This cracking is not related to the turbulence, or specific to Qantas, but is traced back to a manufacturing issue. Airbus has confirmed that it has no effect on flight safety.

‘This type of cracking is different from the “type-two” cracking found on certain A380s in the global fleet which is now the subject of a European airworthiness directive. To date, type-two cracking has not been found on Qantas aircraft.’