LONDON – In a Reported published by Aviation Week, it is understood that Emirates is not currently able to return their A380s back to service as quickly as they would have liked, following an inspection which found there to be small cracks in the aircraft wins spars.
No Cause For Concern Right Now
It is completely normal for larger aircraft such as the A380 to experience higher wear and tear, as the forces generated by the sheer size of the aircraft present a challenge on their own. Emirates President Sir Tim Clark spoke to Aviation Week over this discovery saying: “They started seeing cracks appearing so [the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)] got involved,”
“As usual, some [aircraft] are worse than others. It is not a safety issue at the moment—we are nowhere near that. But we will have to have a regular inspection program going forward.”
In the article is stated that Airbus has sent 50 engineers to Dubai to “deal with the problem” with Emirates also sending one of the four airframes currently awaiting repairs back to Toulouse, as the airline struggles to find sufficient hanger space for the aircraft to complete the required maintenance checks and reworks on spars, “This is inhibiting us,” Clark said.
Wider Problem Affecting More Than Just Emirates
It is understood that comments from Pierre Henri Brousse, Airbus’ head of the A380 program, would imply the issues far surpass just Emirates, however as it has been reported that EASA and Airbus has determined back in 2019 that A380s have to be inspected for such stress cracks at 15 years after the date of the wing box assembly.
Commenting on this to Aviation Week, Brousse said: “We found a higher number of cracks than we were used to and outside of the areas that we knew,”
It is understood that the problem of these wing spare cracks can be found on aircraft younger than 15 years old as well, with any A380 that has been in long-term storage at risk of falling victim to this problem, something which may discourage certain carriers to bring their A380’s back into service if true, but also could be an indication on why some airlines are bringing so many backs so quickly.
After the findings were brought to the EASA’s attention, the European safety agency added to the Airworthiness directive on Aug 31 of this year, with an expansion on the one released in 2019 stating: “Occurrences have been reported of finding cracks in the affected areas of the wing ORS on in-service A380 aeroplanes. This condition, if not detected and corrected, could reduce the structural integrity of the wing.”
“Since that AD was issued, it has been determined that additional areas may be affected by the same unsafe condition and that all MSN (manufacturer serial numbers) must be inspected.” EASA added that “recent inspection results have indicated the need for ORS inspection from 15 years to 12.5 years.” with a requirement that inspections now be repeated every three years.
According to Mr Brousse, none of the issues mentioned above has yet been found on aircraft younger than 12.5 years, however, as stated before lengthy storage of these aircraft could have played a part in the faster-than-originally thought-out determination and stress fracture inside the wingspans.
A380s Still Return Despite Issues
Despite the costs involved in the required repairs that will now be undertaken on the A380s some carriers such as All Nippon Airways, Asiana, British Airways, Emirates, Korean Air, Qantas, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines, all of whom are in the process of or have already completed the reintegration of the superjumbo into their fleets, all be it at reduced numbers compared to their pre-covid figures.
Emirates is, however, the largest operator of the A380 wth the airline expects to operate close to 120 double-decker aircraft in the coming year, currently, they have 84 in active service.
It is important to once again stress, that small cracks in wing spars are natural in older aircraft, and while they are not normally found in planes only 12.5 – 15 years old the A380 is anything but an ordinary aircraft, with parts of that size likely to have completely different and new regulations on limiting lifecycles.