Wing-Crack Checks Ordered For A380s

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Twenty Airbus A380s must undergo inspections to check for cracks in the rib feet -- metal brackets that attach the wing ribs to the skin -- the European Aviation Safety Agency said in a directive (PDF) published on Friday. Cracks were previously found that originate in the ribs and extend to the skin panel attachment holes, EASA said, and inspectors who were checking for those cracks then found a "new form of rib foot cracking… [that] is more significant." These "Type 2" cracks, if not detected and corrected, "could potentially affect the structural integrity of the aeroplane," EASA said. Results of the inspections must be reported to Airbus. EASA added that it is continuing to investigate the problem, and further mandatory actions might be considered.

The inspections must be completed within the next six weeks or 84 flight cycles for A380s with 1,300 to 1,800 flight cycles total, and within four days or 14 flight cycles for those with 1,800 or more, EASA said. The smaller cracks were first reported earlier this month by Singapore Airlines and Qantas, and were not considered to be a safety issue. Airbus said it has a fix that can take care of any cracks that are found, and it has adjusted its manufacturing processes to prevent cracks from forming in the future, according to Bloomberg News. Qantas grounded its fleet briefly in November 2010 after an uncontained engine failure in flight. Sixty-eight of the A380s are flying for airlines around the world.