Friday, January 6, 2012

A380 cracks: check fleets now, say engineers

Plane makers in damage-control mode: Publicity damage, not aircraft damage

Aircraft engineers have called for Airbus and airlines including Qantas to inspect their fleets of A380s as a matter of priority after tiny cracks were discovered in the wings of five superjumbos worldwide.

Airbus has given assurances that its flagship A380 aircraft – the largest passenger jets in the world – are safe to fly and will be issuing a service bulletin to airlines this month requiring them to check for the problem when their superjumbos are due for heavy maintenance every four years.

But the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association said today that it wanted airlines and the European plane maker to conduct inspections for cracks in the wing-rib attachments as soon as possible. "There is no way on God's earth that I would be waiting four years to inspect them," Paul Cousins, the federal president of the engineers' union, said today.

"At the moment it seems that a Band-Aid fix has been applied too quickly to a situation that could become very serious. "This is a large aircraft carrying 520 people across the fleets in the world – we need to be absolutely sure it is flying safely."

Mr Cousins said he was concerned that the failure of one of the rib attachments would put added pressure on others within the wing. "Our concern is a continuing stress on the wing. In this case, Airbus and the European Aviation Safety Agency have been too quick to come out with a fix, rather than saying we need to investigate this further," he said. "It increases the chances that we are going to have a serious problem."

Qantas said the cracks found in one of its A380s under extensive repair in Singapore did not present a risk to flight safety and it was awaiting a service bulletin from Airbus advising of the steps it needed to take. "It is an Airbus aircraft. They are the experts and we will take their advice," a spokesman said today.

Airbus has confirmed that the cracks were found in various parts in the feet of the wing-rib attachments of five superjumbos – one belonging to Qantas, two to Singapore Airlines, one to Emirates and one of Airbus's development aircraft.



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