More examples of A380 cracks

2012-01-31 09:47

Frankfurt - Singapore Airlines said on Monday it had found examples of recently identified wing cracks in all six of the Airbus A380s on which it carried out mandatory inspections, as a senior pilot issued reassurance over the superjumbo's safety.

The discovery of more instances of cracked wing components was expected after Airbus said last week it had found the problem and predicted that until it had time to conduct repairs, a consistent pattern would emerge in further tests.

The European aircraftmaker and airlines insist the world's largest airliner is safe to fly, but are keen to move beyond the issue of small cracks in wing brackets that grabbed media attention and triggered compulsory checks last week.

The European Aviation Safety Agency ordered carriers to inspect almost a third of the global fleet of A380s, starting with six jets operated by Singapore Airlines, to check for one of two types of cracks that emerged in the space of weeks.

"We found cracks in all six," the airline's regional public relations manager for Europe, Peter Tomasch, said during a press event at Frankfurt Airport.

"Four we have repaired and they are flying again. The other two will follow in the coming days."

Boeing unlikely to benefit

EASA ordered the most urgent checks on aircraft that had carried out at least 1 800 takeoffs and landings; the six Singapore Airlines aircraft fell into this category.

The agency gave airlines six weeks to perform checks on a second category of jets that had between 1 300 and 1 800 takeoffs and landings, and did not order checks on less heavily used aircraft.

Analysts say publicity over the cracks is unlikely to benefit Airbus rival Boeing in the short term as airlines base their decisions on whether to buy the $390m jet on the economics of its anticipated performance over many years.

However, some say the problems for Airbus and parent EADS could deepen if the response diverts scarce engineering resources or passengers balk at flying on the jet. So far no airlines operating the A380 have reported any dip in bookings.

In a bulletin known as an airworthiness directive, EASA last week gave Singapore Airlines, Dubai's Emirates and Air France six weeks to examine a further 14 aircraft.

In total, 68 superjumbos are in operation and a total of 253 have been sold.

Expensive exercise

Airbus says the cracks were discovered long before they posed a potential safety hazard, but it faces a bill for the checks and repairs which are being carried out at its expense.

"The inspection and repairs are well under way and continuing, in line with the airworthiness directive," a spokesperson said.

"Airbus is supplying repair kits as well as providing technical and logistical support to our customers."

Cracks on what Airbus describes as a handful of the 2 000 L-shaped brackets fixing exterior panels to the ribcage of each 845m² wing first surfaced during repairs to a Qantas A380 that was damaged when an engine exploded in November 2010.

Those initial cracks were seen as a minor glitch in the aircraft's metallic frame, but regulators decided to act when their discovery led engineers to a second and potentially more significant type of crack on the same type of bracket.

Airbus said last week that having understood the problem, it expected most of the aircraft being tested would show similar evidence of cracks and that it had found a simple repair.

No A380s grounded

It blamed the cracks on three errors: Designers' choice of aluminium alloy for some of the "rib feet" brackets, the use of a type of bolt that strained the metal and a way of closing tiny gaps that put too much stress on a handful of parts.

Besides the 24 hours required to empty fuel tanks and carry out visual inspections inside the UK-built wings, the largest ever made for a jetliner, no A380s have been grounded.

However, if unrepaired, the cracks could curtail the maximum service life allowed by regulators. After immediate repairs, Airbus plans to change the type of metal used to build the part.

Singapore Airlines' chief pilot for the A380, Captain Robert Ting, flew to Germany on Sunday in one of the six aircraft that had to be fixed as a result of mandatory inspections so far and sought to reassure future passengers over the aircraft's safety.

"I slept very well," he said, referring to his peace of mind during a rest period while a second crew flew the aircraft.

"We have very competent authorities, and a very competent Airbus," he told reporters in Frankfurt.

Ting piloted the first commercial A380 flight in 2007.

  • Celtis - 2012-01-31 10:18

    Please buy one for the president.

      Alan - 2012-01-31 11:57

      Doesnt help - he flies with a couple of backup planes.

      Celtis - 2012-01-31 13:16

      Alan your right. I did not think this one through. I thought it was a cracking idea but if his A380 cracks and loose a wing, plunges into the Hartseerpoort dam then he still as 2 other planes to return his remains. Never thought of that.

      comurray - 2012-02-01 08:06

      Yes, one with the largest cracks.

  • jaz82 - 2012-01-31 10:19

    This story cracks me up

      Alan - 2012-01-31 11:56

      You are really 'winging it'

  • Jan - 2012-01-31 10:19

    It makes you think, doesn't it? All these highly paid engineers and 'stringent aviation safety measures' are showing cracks of imperfection. Then they use PR (translated as Bulldust Baffles Brains) to minimise the damage. These aviation companies are more concerned with lining their pockets than our safety. Governments should force the whole lot to remain on the ground until they can sort out their design and material flaws. Especially if it originates from the US and France.

      Clive.D.Buckley - 2012-01-31 11:27

      I disagree Jan... no industry in the world is more concerned about the safety of it's equipment than the airline industry... after all, killing passengers is really bad for business... This story actually just goes to prove how safety concious the airline industry is. They have made all airlines replace the faulty parts (at the manufacturers expense) long before these parts became a safety hazard. did you know that SAA's fleet is ALL Airbus equipment now expect for the domestic short haul planes, which are still boeing 737-800's (besides from one or 2 Airbus A319's)...

      Alexander - 2012-02-01 10:12

      Jan I see that a gagle of people have given you a thumbs down?? I agree with you.

  • The-Azanian - 2012-01-31 10:39

    i bet boeing is giggling by the corner with their 787 nightmareliner.

  • Andries - 2012-02-01 20:07

    In a bulletin known as an airworthiness directive (AD- my own insert) , EASA last week gave Singapore Airlines, Dubai's Emirates and Air France six weeks to examine a further 14 aircraft." It is to be noted that aviation authorities ONLY issue an AD if they indeed deem a problem to be a safety risk. No matter what pooh-poohing you read about this. The AD comes after the manufacturer would have sent out a Mandatory Service Bulletin (SB) when he sees a SAFETY RISK. If it only was a little problem that could be fixed in time a Service Letter or Non-mandatory service bulletin would have gone out. Even if the reasons for cracking, as supplied by Airbus is true these need to be examined too: Those are such basic errors of design and manufacture that it had been stopped many, many years ago. Airbus, because the A-380 HAD to come in service to make money started taking gross shortcuts 8 years ago. The design for proper strength put the aircraft about 20 tonnes over its allowable empty weight and then the design and construction HAD to be adapted tobring the weight down. 5 years ago I made the decision to NEVER fly in an A-380 as I understand the risks of cutting corners to save weight and the consecuences of the starting and propagation of hairline cracks that start on non-load bearing components in aircraft. Too many built-in hazards in the A-380. Watch the uproar when the FAA in times bans the beast in USA skies - and they have reason to, in my pinion.

      Jaba - 2012-02-01 21:07

      I will not fly in the A380, furthermore i will NEVER fly Emirates again.

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