Airbus declines engineers’ call to ground A380

Posted on 10 Jan 2012 by Tim Brown

Australian aircraft engineers have today called for the immediate grounding of all Airbus A380s after Singapore Airlines and Qantas found cracks on the wings of the 525-seater passenger planes.

While confirming in a statement the existence of what it calls “minor cracks on some non-critical wing rib skin attachments”, Airbus have said that the cracks are not a safety issue and any fix, if necessary, can be done during regular maintenance.

“We have traced the origin,” the statement said. “Airbus has developed an inspection and repair procedure which will be done during routine, scheduled 4 year maintenance checks.”

‪In the meantime, Airbus has emphasised that the safe operation of the A380 fleet is not affected and the European Aviation Safety Agency has concurred with the Airbus approach.

However, Steve Purvinas, the Federal Secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association said in an interview with the BBC: “We can’t continue to gamble with people’s lives and allow those aircraft to fly around and hope that they make it until their four-yearly inspection.”

Crikey reporter, Ben Sandilands, wrote in a recent article: “The truth about airframe cracks and manufacturing anomalies, which is what this is about, is that in the case of every passenger airliner entry into service since the original ill-fated Comets, such issues, serious and non-serious, have always arisen. In relation to fatigue they reflect the reality that the wear and tear of pressurization cycles and landings will cause cracking in airframe and engine structures, including engine pylons, wheel gear, window frames, fuselage joins, and in the skin or surface of wings and the stringers that connect panels to the internal structure.

“In fact the whole regulatory process for dealing with structural cracks because of the early history of airliner design disasters, like that of the Comets, the Vickers Viscounts, the Vickers Vanguards, Lockheed turbo-prop Electras, and more recently, aged Boeing 737s and 747s, is as crushingly boring as watching grass growing.  But it works. [Every jet] will have developed  crack issues or alerts of some nature, as well as a schedule for their oversight and if necessary, removal or repair, within at least a few years of service.”

There are 67 of the huge double-decker aircraft in use by Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Emirates, Air France, Lufthansa, Korean Airlines and China Southern. Orders, from the likes of Hong Kong Airlines, for more run to a total of 238 from 17 airlines.

Wings for the A380 are made at a facility at the Hawarden Airport, south of Liverpool, then shipped to Toulouse in the south of France for assembly.