Airbus fleet to get full safety check after discovery of wing cracks
EUROPEAN air safety officials agreed yesterday to extend checks for Airbus A380 wing cracks to the entire Airbus superjumbo fleet and warned that the widespread defects could pose a safety risk if left unremedied.
The move to inspect all 68 A380s in service came as Qantas Airways grounded one of its planes for up to a week following the discovery of 36 separate cracks in wing parts.
The new measures by the European Air Safety Agency "reflect the results of a first round of checks, which found cracks in almost all of the planes inspected", a spokesman said.
"This condition, if not detected and corrected, may lead to a reduction of the structural integrity of the aeroplane," the EU agency said in its directive to airlines.
By signalling that the flaws are thought to be structural and widespread, the fleet-wide inspection order will refocus attention on faults recently found in flagship jets from both of the world's dominant aircraft makers.
Boeing and Airbus, a division of European Aeronautic Defence & Space, maintain that their newest planes are safe to fly after problems were caught at an early stage.
Under the new directive, the seven airlines currently operating A380s must carry out Airbus-sanctioned checks and preliminary repairs on every plane before its 1,300th flight.
The first round of inspections, which covered one-third of the fleet, applied only to jets that had exceeded that number of flights. Aircraft already approaching or beyond the threshold must now be checked and repaired within weeks.
The damaged L-shaped parts, which fix the wing skins to their underlying frame, are "not a primary load-bearing structure", Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath said.
Cracks have been discovered in a "handful" of the 4,000 such brackets on each aircraft, he added. "The safe operation of this aircraft is not at stake."
Inspections had initially focused on 20 aircraft operated by Singapore Airlines, Air France and Dubai's Emirates -- which had logged the most A380 flights in the four years since the world's largest passenger plane entered service.
They will now be also be carried out on superjumbos flown by Qantas, China Southern, Korean Air and Lufthansa. (Reuters)