European Aviation Safety Agency Mandates Additional Inspections For Cracks On A380 Wings

The European Aviation Safety Agency has issued a new Airworthiness Directive mandating additional inspections for cracks that have been found on Airbus A380 wings.

The new directive applies to every A380 aircraft passing 1,216 numbers of flights conducted. The issuance of the Airworthiness Directive reportedly follows the discovery of up to 36 cracks on the Qantas A380 involved in severe turbulence incident last month, the Chicago Tribune reported. The cracks although apparently unrelated to the turbulence incident are said to have been observed on other operators’ A380.

As a result, A380 operators would have to initiate testing within 3 weeks on aircraft that have conducted more than 1384 flights. For aircraft with less than 1,384 flights, but which have accumulated at least 1,216 flights, the deadline for inspection is extended to six weeks from February 13th 2012. The measure is more relaxed for aircraft which currently have less than 1,216 flights. Inspections on those would only be due as they reach the 1,300 flights mark.

According to the Airworthiness Directive document at least two different instances of cracks were found on points where wing ribs and skin panels attach. The Airworthiness Directive anticipates that the cracks may develop as an airframe approaches 1,216 flight cycles. The Airworthiness Directive also directs the employment of High Frequency Eddy Current in order to detect areas of poor current conductivity. Eddy Current are helpful in determining the presence of cracks as they hamper the current’s flow.

The latest EASA Airworthiness Directive now brings a more comprehensive solution replacing the temporary inspection order published last month. The January 20th 2012 order also regarding cracks was limited in scope to ‘detailed visual inspections’. Targeting aircraft with between 1,300 and 1,800 flights, the measure in effect only applied to twenty older aircraft being operated mostly by Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Qantas. In comparison the new directive gives Airbus the opportunity to engage with all the type’s operators and implement long term design fixes.