Home' Asian Aviation : AAV Feb 2012 Contents 22 AsianAviation | FEBRUARY 2012
Four years a er entry into ser vice, the
Airbus A380 -- the world s largest
airliner -- is facing a wave of negative
press a er reports of cracks found in
the wings of aircra operated by Qantas
and Singapore Airlines (SIA). The
airlines rst stated publicly on 6 January that cracks
had been found in the wing ribs of a "limited number"
of the double-deck quad-jets, although they added that
the discovery did not a ect the safety of the aircra .
SIA said the cracks had been discovered in "a
small number of wing-rib feet" on two aircra and
repairs had been carried out. e airline said it would
continue to carry out inspections and any necessary
repairs on other aircra as they come up for routine
Separately, Australia s Qantas said it had found
"miniscule cracking" in the wing ribs of one A380
undergoing repairs in Singapore a er it su ered an
uncontained failure of one of its Rolls-Royce Trent
900 engines in November 2010. e cracks were
unrelated to the engine incident, Qantas said, adding
that they had been repaired.
'No immediate action'
According to the Australian airline : "No immediate
action is required by A380 operators because the
cracking presents no risk whatsoever to ight safety."
Qantas said Airbus was developing formal guidance
that would probably require A380 operators to inspect
wing ribs for this type of cracking every four years.
Airbus head of engineering Charles Champion told
reporters that the manufacturer s analysis showed the
cracks -- less than a centimetre long -- posed no threat
to aircra safety. e company had been informing
authorities including the European Aviation Safety
Agency (EASA) about the issue, but there were no
plans to release airworthiness directives requiring any
special action by airlines.
e engineers trade union Australian Licensed
Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) was
sceptical, with the union s Federal President Paul
Cousins telling the Sydney Morning Herald that
"a Band-Aid x has been applied to a situation that
could become very serious".
"Our concern is a continuing stress on the wing,"
Cousins told the paper. "In this case, Airbus and the
European Aviation Safety Agency have been too
quick to come out with a x , rather than saying we
need to investigate further."
Airbus has now traced the origin of the cracks
back to unexpected stresses arising during the
manufacturing process. e company said it remained
con dent in its original ight-loading calculations.
As Asian Aviation went to press, Airbus was in the
process of changing the manufacturing process and
EASA was expected to tell operators to carry out
precautionary inspections. e manufacturer insisted
that the cracks do not represent a threat to safety in
the short to medium term.
e A380 s wings are manufactured at Airbus s
Broughton plant in the UK and then transferred
to the company s assembly line in Toulouse, France.
Press reports say that investigations have shown the
cracked parts were being placed under stress at some
point during manufacture, as the wing skin is placed
over the framework of wing ribs and spars before
being attached, creating standing stresses in the
Airbus insisted that the cracks would have shown
up in routine heavy maintenance of the aircra ,
even though they were initially discovered as a
consequence of the November 2010 engine failure
incident on Qantas ight QF32.
About a month before the discovery of the wing
cracks, Qantas said it had begun discussions with
engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce "on a range
of issues concerning the A380 fleet, including
nancial and operational impacts, as a consequence
of the QF32 Trent 900 engine failure ... and will also
consider legal options".
On 2 December, Qantas led a statement of claim
and was granted an injunction by the Federal Court
of Australia, ensuring that the company can pursue
legal action against the engine maker in Australia "if
a commercial settlement is not possible".
The move "allows Qantas to keep all options
available to the company to recover losses, as a result
of the grounding of the A380 eet and the operational
constraints currently imposed on A380 ser vices".
Trent 900 engines on the global A380 eet remain
subject to an EASA directive issued on 10 November,
mandating that all the engines should be inspected
every 20 ight cycles.
"Qantas will fully comply with this directive -- both
for A380s brought back into service and for new
aircra entering the Qantas eet," the airline said.
"Airbus and the European
Aviation Safety Agency have
been too quick to come out
with a fix, rather than saying
we need to investigate
further." -- ALAEA Federal
President Paul Cousins
Still recovering from the consequences of an uncontained engine failure on a Qantas aircraft in November 2010,
the Airbus A380 programme now faces an issue with wing cracking, writes Andrzej Jeziorski.
Wing cracking has been found in the A380 fleets of both Singapore Airlines and Qantas.
A380 faces wing-
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