Airbus to check all A380s amid safety fears

Cracks found on wings of super-jumbo must be examined in entire fleet, aviation authorities insist

Paris

Fresh safety concerns emerged yesterday about tiny cracks in the British-made wings of the world's largest airliner, the Airbus A380.

Click HERE to view graphic

European air safety authorities ordered that checks, announced last month on microscopic cracks inside the wings of the A380, should be extended to all 68 aircraft. Earlier, the Australian airline, Qantas, announced it had grounded one of its 12 Airbus "super-jumbos" after finding a different, but apparently unthreatening, type of hairline crack in its wings.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said that it was extending its 20 January "airworthiness directive" to all 68 A380s after studying the results of the initial inspections. Airbus insisted that the 2cm cracks – found on some small brackets inside the wings – did not affect the aircraft's ability to fly.

"These brackets are located on wing ribs which are not main load-bearing structure, and, thus, the safe operation of the aircraft is not affected," Airbus said. "Nearly 4,000 such brackets are used on the A380 to join the wing-skin to the ribs. Only a handful of brackets per aircraft have been found to have been affected."

However, the EASA said the cracks, if not corrected, "could potentially affect the structural integrity of the aircraft".

European air safety officials had initially ordered that the 20 oldest A380s should be inspected and any faulty brackets repaired within six weeks. This order has now been extended to all 68 aircraft in service with seven airlines worldwide.

Another 185 super-jumbos have been ordered, with Airbus forecasting that the A380 programme will break even by 2015. Existing aircraft are divided between Emirates (20 aircraft), Singapore Airlines (15) Qantas (12), Lufthansa (8), Air France (6), Korean Air (5) and China Southern Airlines (2). Qantas said yesterday that it was temporarily grounding one of its A380s after discovering 36 hairline cracks in its wings. It said the cracks were of a different type from those covered by the EASA directive and could easily be repaired.

The 525-seat, double-decker A380 suffered a series of design problems and delays before it entered service on 2007. Its record has mostly been good, but one of four Rolls-Royce engines on a Qantas super-jumbo disintegrated in mid-air in 2010.

Minor teething troubles with new designs of aircraft are common. Both Airbus and the EASA insisted yesterday that there was no reason to fear for the safety of the aircraft. The 68 super-jumbos would continue to fly while safety checks were made as part of routine maintenance schedules.

The wings for the A380 are made at the Airbus factory in Broughton, in North Wales. In previous statements, Airbus suggested that the problem had been traced to minor design faults, such as an inflexible type of aluminium alloy used in the brackets and the stresses caused when the wings were assembled.

Airbus said that it has developed "kits" to permit temporary repairs. Redesigned wing brackets, or "wing rib feet", would then be fitted by the summer.

Hairline cracks were first discovered in some A380 wings in December but declared to be a minor problem. Somewhat bigger cracks, in brackets close to the central part of the wings, were discovered last month.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before