Europe’s air safety regulator has ordered urgent inspections on nearly a third of the Airbus A380 fleet after a second set of cracks were found in the wings of the superjumbo jet.
The order followed a disclosure by Airbus that it had found cracks the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) termed “more serious” than the “minor cracks” discovered two weeks ago as part of the ongoing repairs of Qantas A380 VH-OQA Nancy Bird Walton, which suffered an engine explosion near Singapore in late 2010.
Like the first set of cracks, the new cracks were found in L-shaped brackets that connect metal ribs inside the wings with the wing exterior.
“This condition, if not detected and corrected, could potentially affect the structural integrity of the aeroplane,” EASA said in an airworthiness directive.
The directive, issued Friday, ordered inspections within four days of all aircraft with more than 1800 takeoffs and landings. Inspections for aircraft with between 1300 and 1800 takeoffs and landings were ordered within six weeks. In all some 20 aircraft are reportedly covered by the order, including 10 from Singapore Airlines, seven from Emirates, one from Air France and two development aircraft.
Qantas, which operates a fleet of 11 A380s in addition to the one undergoing repairs, said it would develop an inspection program for the aircraft in conjunction with Airbus.
Airbus has sought to downplay the revelations, saying the cracks pose no safety risk and calling the EASA directive proof the “airworthiness process is working.”
A total of 68 A380s are currently in service worldwide, with Airbus having sold 253 of 525-seat airliner, the world’s largest.