The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) ordered last Feb. 8 that all Airbus A380 superjumbo planes be checked for wing cracks, even as the aircraft manufacturer insisted there was nothing to worry about.
The cracks had been found “following an unscheduled internal inspection of an A380 wing,” EASA said in a statement.
Further to the finding, inspections were carried out on a number of other aeroplanes during which a new form of cracking was identified which, “if not detected and corrected, may lead to reduction of the structural integrity of the aeroplane,” the statement said.
EASA, which had already said last month ordered that 20 such jets be inspected following the discovery of cracks in the wings of Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Air France planes, has expanded the checks to all 67 A380s currently in operation, a spokesman said.
The announcement came after Australia’s Qantas removed one of its A380 from service after discovering “minor cracks” in its wings, but said that there was no risk to flight safety.
When the first checks were announced last month, Airbus’s vice president Tom Williams insisted the tiny wing cracks could be easily repaired and did not pose any danger.
“This is not a fatigue cracking problem,” Williams said, blaming the cracks on design and manufacturing issues instead.
“The cracks do not compromise the airworthiness of the aircraft,” he insisted.
Airbus reiterated that stance again on Wednesday.
The EASA spokesman said the checks comprised both a “detailed visual inspection”, but also more intense testing that would be able to detect potential faults invisible to the naked eye.
There was no urgency to the inspections and those aircraft that had already flown more than 1,800 flights would be checked first, he said.
Earlier, Qantas took one of its A380s out of service Wednesday after discovering “minor cracks” in its wings.
The Australian airline stressed that it was not the “type two” cracking found across the global A380 fleet last month which was “now the subject of a European airworthiness directive.”
“To date, type two cracking has not been found on Qantas aircraft,” a Qantas spokeswoman told AFP.
The small cracking, on “some wing rib feet”, was discovered during an extra round of precautionary checks requested by Airbus on the Qantas superjumbo after it hit severe turbulence over India in January.
Seven passengers were injured and four required hospital treatment in Singapore following the incident.
“This cracking is not related to the turbulence, or specific to Qantas, but is traced back to a manufacturing issue,” the Qantas spokeswoman said.
“Airbus has confirmed that it has no effect on flight safety.”
Qantas, which has 12 A380s in its fleet, said an “inspection and repair regime has been developed” in conjunction with Airbus and it expected the jet in question to return to service within a week.
“We will follow Airbus instructions on any further action that may be required,” the spokeswoman said.
It is the second Qantas A380 to be found with wing rib cracks, with a superjumbo involved in a dramatic mid-air engine explosion over Indonesia in November 2010 also suffering cracking.
The A380 is the world’s biggest passenger jet and a key product in Airbus’s line-up as it battles its main rival, US giant Boeing, for the top spot in the world civil airliner industry.
The A380 double-decker plane entered service in 2007 after years of technical delays. There are now 67 in service around the world and, while they have never had a fatal accident, there have been teething problems.
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