Qantas A380 Jet Grounded After Cracks Found in Wing Parts

Qantas Airways Ltd., Australia’s largest carrier, suspended use of one of its Airbus SAS A380 passenger jets for as long as a week after discovering cracks in wing parts.

The aircraft has been grounded since Feb. 5, spokesman Thomas Woodward said by phone today. The plane, named Charles Kingsford Smith, has flown between 20 and 30 times since the cracks were first discovered Jan. 7 in routine checks by the airline after severe turbulence on a flight from London to Singapore, he said.

“We will follow Airbus’ instructions on any further action that may be required,” Woodward said in a separate e-mailed statement. “We expect the aircraft to be back in service within a week.”

The grounding comes after Europe’s air safety regulator ordered checks last month of about a third of the global A380 fleet, following reports of cracking in the wing rib feet of jets flown by Qantas and Singapore Airlines Ltd. Toulouse, France-based Airbus said last month that the plane, the world’s largest commercial aircraft, was safe to fly.

The Charles Kingsford Smith, one of 12 in the Qantas fleet, was grounded after Airbus requested additional checks last week based on data sent by the Sydney-based airline following an initial inspection, Woodward said.

The grounding was reported earlier today by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper

Wing cracks

The 36 small fissures detected on the plane were different from the so-called “type two” cracks that sparked the European regulator’s order, but similar to cracking traced to manufacturing defects previously detected in a separate Qantas A380, the Nancy Bird Walton, Woodward said.

Both types of cracks affect the aircraft’s wing rib feet, 4,000 of which are used to attach the wing’s reinforcing ribs to its outer skin. All A380s currently in service will ultimately need checks and possible repairs, Airbus has said.

Nicholas Ionides, a spokesman for Singapore Airlines, said by telephone that all eight of the carrier’s 15 aircraft checked so far had needed repairs.

Qantas rose 0.6 percent to A$1.63 at the close of Sydney trading, compared with a 0.4 percent gain by the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index. Qantas shares have lost a third of their value over the last 12 months.

The directive issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency on Jan. 20 required all planes that had flown more than 1,800 trips to be checked within four days for the “type two” cracks.

“This condition, if not detected and corrected, could potentially affect the structural integrity of the airplane,” the safety organization said in the order.

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