European manufacturer Airbus says small cracks found in the outer rear wing spar of early A380 superjumbos do not affect the ongoing safe operation of the fleet.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency is proposing an airworthiness directive requiring inspections of the outer rear wing spar after reports of cracks on in-service A380s.
It said the condition, if not detected and correct, could reduce the structural integrity of the wing.
The interim action is limited to the 25 oldest A380s taken by airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Emirates and Lufthansa.
Airlines are required to make the inspection using phased-array ultrasonic testing within 15 years of the wing box assembly date and in some circumstances repeat it every three years.
Qantas, which has six of the 25 affected aircraft, said it had been working with Airbus on the issue for some time and two inspections had already been completed. It had also informed the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of the issue.
The Qantas inspections mean it is ahead of the EASA requirements which would see the first inspection on Qantas aircraft due in June 2020 with last due about May 2021.
“Inspections are not required on these aircraft for another year or two and are being done well in advance of the required timeframes,” Qantas head of engineering Chris Snook said.
“We have completed inspections on two aircraft and there were no concerns with the structural integrity of the wing.”
Airbus confirmed the small cracks had been found and said it had identified the issue and designed an inspection and repair scheme.
It said it was in contact with EASA and working with customers.
“The inspections and repairs can be accomplished over scheduled heavy maintenance checks,’’ it said.
“Under the inspection and repair regime, as outlined in the AD proposal, the ongoing safe operation (airworthiness) of the A380 fleet is not affected.”
This is not the first wing crack issue on A380s.
Airbus also had to address problems that emerged in 2012 with cracking in L-shaped brackets known as rib feet that connect the wing skin to rib structures.
The problem was initially discovered in a Qantas A380 that suffered an uncontained engine failure in 2010.