Airbus A380 wing crack checks expanded

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Airbus A380 wing crack checks expanded

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European air safety officials have ordered an expansion of checks for cracks in the wings of Airbus A380s

The entire superjumbo fleet of 68 planes will now be inspected.

The European Aviation Safety Agency last month ordered checks on one-third of the fleet after cracks were found in a handful of the thousands of L-shaped brackets that fix each wing’s exterior to the internal ribcage-like structure.

Airbus, a unit of the European Aeronautic Defence & Space Company, declined to comment on the additional inspections.

Aircraft are designed with multiple safeguards to protect against the extreme stresses and temperature variations encountered during flight.

But problems have recently embarrassed both Airbus and Boeing, which dominate the world jetliner market

Boeing this week reported a manufacturing flaw on its 787 Dreamliner, the world’s first commercial jet built mostly from carbon-fibre composites, nine weeks after entry into service. Engineers found some delamination, or separation of baked composite fibres, in parts of the rear fuselage.

Jim Albaugh, the head of Boeing’s commercial aircraft division, has said the problem would delay initial deliveries without undermining the company’s full-year target.

At the same time Qantas grounded one of its A380s after finding a different type of wing cracks on a plane that was checked after flying through severe turbulence.

Thirty six small cracks were found, each no longer than two centimetres.

“This cracking is not related to the turbulence, or specific to Qantas, but is traced back to a manufacturing issue,” a Qantas statement said, adding that Airbus had confirmed the cracks had no effect on flight safety.

It said the cracks were not as serious as those discovered by Airbus in Europe last month. “This type of cracking is different from the ‘type two’ cracking found on certain A380s in the global fleet, which is now the subject of a European airworthiness directive,” it said. Qantas has 12 Airbus A380s.