A380 Wing Fixes Cause Little Disruption

Airbus A380A European Aviation Safety Agency mandate on A380 operators to inspect and potentially fix L-shaped wing rib-feet has so far had a minor impact on service operations at Singapore Airlines. Lufthansa also does not see major issues once its aircraft are up for review.

Singapore Airlines had by far the largest number of A380s affected by the inspection regime. It found cracks on all six aircraft inspected, with five returned to service already and a sixth to be back in operations on February 4. No major service disruptions resulted although some A380 flights were downgauged to Boeing 777-300ERs while the Airbus aircraft was being fixed.

Similarly, Lufthansa’s director of A380 introduction, Dean Rainieri, says he does not expect any major disruptions. Lufthansa currently has a fleet of eight aircraft, but they are not yet affected due to their low number of flight hours.

The situation matches Airbus projections. The aircraft maker has identified fixes that mitigate the cracking by changing its wing assembly process and also is looking to use a different material for the wing rib-feet for extra strength.

But that is not the only in-service issue the aircraft maker is dealing with on its flagship product. Fleet-wide dispatch reliability of the A380 is now at around 98%. “We were not at the levels of reliability that we had hoped for,” concedes Paul Oliver, head of customer support for the Middle East, Africa and India during Aviation Week’s MRO Middle East conference in Dubai.

However, he stresses the trend lines are in the right direction and that more than half of the aircraft’s operators are at 99%. Lufthansa is at 99.2%, according to Rainieri. The airline has operated a fleet of four aircraft at 100% for four months before encountering some glitches.

Separately, the Qantas A380 severely damaged as a result of the Nov 4, 2010, uncontained Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine failure is now “back in flying condition,” Oliver says. But the aircraft is still undergoing wing crack repairs in Singapore where is has been fixed.




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