A Qantas A380 has been grounded for up to a week over cracks discovered inside its wing after it was hit by severe turbulence during a flight from London to Singapore last month.
Engineers found 36 hairline cracks in wing-rib feet during inspections in Sydney, Qantas said. The discovery comes after the European Aviation Safety Agency ordered immediate checks of heavily used planes following the discovery of interior wing cracks in a number of other A380s.
But Qantas said the cracks discovered in the wings of VH-OQF Charles Kingsford Smith were different — and less serious — than the “type two” cracks that led to the EASA directive. The airline also said the cracks were not the result of the turbulence, which injured seven passengers when the aircraft hit storms over India en route from London to Singapore on January 7.
“This cracking is not related to the turbulence, or specific to Qantas, but it is traced back to a manufacturing issue,” a Qantas spokesperson told AAP.
Airbus, Qantas and other A380 operators have all insisted that the cracks have been caught well before they pose any safety threat, and Airbus says it has developed a process to fix the problem.
The wing cracks were first discovered during the ongoing repair of the Qantas A380 that suffered an engine explosion near Singapore in late 2010. Other carriers have since discovered the cracks, with Singapore Airlines saying this month it had discovered the problem in all six A380s inspected under the EASA directive.
Qantas said VH-OQF was inspected by engineers in Singapore after hitting the turbulence and cleared to continue to Sydney, where the cracks were discovered during additional inspections requested by Airbus.
The union representing Qantas engineers has called for immediate inspections of all of the carrier’s A380s, but so far the airline and Airbus say that’s unnecessary.