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Cracks Trigger A380 Wing-spar Inspections

Airbus and EASA will evaluate the initial inspection results and may expand the program to other A380s.

Airbus and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) are developing an inspection program for Airbus A380 wing outer rear spars (ORS) after reports of cracks on in-service aircraft.

The program, revealed in a proposed EASA airworthiness directive (AD) published July 5, targets “the 25 oldest wing sets” in the A380 in-service fleet. Affected operators are to conduct initial “special detailed inspections" on a schedule based on the aircraft’s age. Follow-up checks will be done every 36 months.

Airbus and EASA will evaluate the initial inspection results and, “based on inspection findings," may expand the program to other A380s, the AD explained. 

The 25 aircraft listed for initial inspections are between manufacturer serial numbers (MSNs) 0006 and 0038. An Aviation Week Fleet Data Services analysis shows that Emirates Airline has the most, with nine, followed by Qantas, with six.

One of the Qantas aircraft is MSN 014, the airframe that suffered substantial damage following a November 2010 engine failure and was out of service for nearly 18 months. Singapore Airlines has four, while two aircraft once operated by Singapore are in storage with Afa Press UK Ltd. as the listed owner. The remaining airframes are with Air France (two), Lufthansa, and Hi Fly.

The initial program is in response to “occurrences” of ORS cracks on in-service aircraft, EASA explained. The AD does not say how many aircraft have turned up with cracks.

Airbus is developing a service bulletin that details the inspection procedures. The manufacturer could not immediately answer requests for more information.

The EASA directive does not link the new problem to an issue uncovered in 2012 that led to a fleet-wide fix. Airbus introduced—and EASA mandated—wing-rib retrofits when the original components began cracking, threatening the model’s design life. The fixes, rolled out over several years starting in mid-2012, covered more than 120 in-service A380s. A production-line design change covered unbuilt aircraft. 

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