May 24, 2024

European Agency Orders Inspections of 20 Airbus Jets

PARIS — European air safety regulators on Friday ordered inspections of nearly one-third of all Airbus A380 jets after hairline cracks were found in a component of the wings on a handful of the 555-seat superjumbos in recent months.

The European Aviation Safety Agency said the order would affect about 20 of the 68 planes currently in service. The cracks have been found in a small number of L-shaped brackets that connect the wing’s aluminum skin to its structural ribs.

The inspection order follows the discovery of cracks in two different places on some wing brackets, which Airbus said it had traced to a bracket installation process that has since been modified. Airbus described both cracking problems as minor and said that while any damaged brackets needed to be replaced, they did not pose an imminent safety risk.

The first cracks were found late last year on the wing of a Qantas A380 that was being refurbished after experiencing a spectacular midair engine explosion in 2010. Airbus and the agency deemed those cracks — which extend from a bolt hole in the bracket — to be “noncritical” and advised airlines in early January to inspect and replace the parts during routine scheduled four-year maintenance checks. The first A380s entered service four years ago.

Only nine A380s have undergone the recommended inspections thus far. But in the course of those checks, two planes were found to have tiny fissures in a different section of the wing bracket.

It is these cracks that the safety agency on Friday deemed were more significant. “This condition, if not detected and corrected, could potentially affect the structural integrity of the airplane” over time, the regulator said.

The agency ordered airlines whose A380s had flown more than 1,800 takeoff and landing cycles since entering service to make a detailed visual inspection of the wing rib brackets within the next four days. Less-heavily used planes, with 1,300 to 1,799 flight cycles, will have six weeks to complete them. A380s that have logged fewer than 1,300 flight cycles will be able to wait until the plane’s next scheduled four-year maintenance check, the regulator said.

Half of the A380s affected by the inspection order are operated by Singapore Airlines, which took delivery of the first superjumbo in late 2007. Seven others belong to the Dubai-based carrier Emirates and one is owned by Air France-KLM, according to the serial numbers listed by the safety agency. The remaining two are Airbus test planes.

Industry officials said that the required inspections could be completed in as little as 24 hours or could take up to several days, depending on local maintenance work rules and the number of brackets, if any, that needed replacement. Each wing of an A380 contains about 2,000 of the brackets, which are about eight inches long and are made of a metal alloy.

Fatigue cracking is unusual in relatively young aircraft. The phenomenon, which is more common in older planes that have experienced heavy use, has begun to attract closer regulatory scrutiny in the wake of a recent series of incidents involving aging Boeing 737s and 757s in the United States.

In one case last year, a tiny undetected crack in the metal skin of a Southwest Airlines jet widened into a five-foot hole in the fuselage during flight, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing.

Article source:

Europe Says It Ended Subsidies to Airbus

Working on an Airbus A380 at a factory in Hamburg, Germany. Government aid was called unfair by the United States.

Article source:

The Week’s Business News in Pictures.

The 747-8 Intercontinental, Boeing’s largest passenger airplane, after its first flight last Sunday at Boeing Field in Washington State. The 747-8 can carry 467 passengers in a three-class configuration and is designed for long-haul routes. The plane is a longer and more fuel-efficient update of Boeing’s double-decker 747 jumbo jet, and will compete with the Airbus A380, the world’s biggest passenger plane.

Article source: