Airbus A380 Cracks Prompt European Air-Safety Regulator to Seek Inspection
Singapore Airlines Ltd., the second- largest operator of Airbus SAS A380s, started inspecting superjumbos today because of concerns about cracks in wing parts.
The checks won’t impact operations, Nicholas Ionides, a spokesman, said by telephone from Singapore. The Singapore-based carrier has 15 superjumbos.
The European Aviation Safety Agency also plans to issue a notice today ordering inspections after Singapore Air and Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN) found cracks in A380 wing-rib feet. The fissures, while “embarrassing,” pose no dangers to passengers flying on the world’s largest commercial aircraft, Airbus Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders said late yesterday.
“The A380 is a bit like Concorde,” said Nick Cunningham, an analyst at Agency Partners in London, referring to the supersonic plane that flew from the late 1960s until a decade ago. “It’s distinctive, it’s an icon, and so anything that happens to it is big news. The cracks seem to be reasonably normal for the course of business.”
If similar cracks had been find in the wings of other planes in airline fleets, it would not have drawn public attention, he said.
Shares of Airbus parent European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. declined 0.2 percent to 25.49 euros as of 10:32 a.m. in Paris. Singapore Air rose 0.6 percent to S$10.79.
“I can’t say I’m proud of it,” Enders said in an interview with CNN that aired late yesterday, referring to the cracks discovered. “We’re obviously investigating how it happened. We think we have a good understanding but the investigation is ongoing.”
A total of 67 A380s were in service as of the end of 2011, according to figures on Airbus’s web site. The iconic Concorde model had only 14 planes in service: seven with Air France SA and seven with then-British Airways Plc.
EASA hasn’t decided how often planes will need to be checked, Dominique Fouda, a spokesman, said by phone from Cologne, Germany, yesterday.
Airbus initially advised on Jan. 5 that faults, linked to a manufacturing issue, could be fixed during scheduled four-year maintenance and didn’t need immediate checks. Wing-rib feet help support aircraft wings.
Some additional cracks have been found on a limited number of non-critical brackets, Justin Dubon, an Airbus spokesman, said yesterday.
Qantas will fully comply with the directive, Thomas Woodward, a spokesman, said by e-mail. The Sydney-based carrier hasn’t yet begun checks on its 11 in-service planes, he said.
Emirates, the biggest operator of the A380, has been told by Airbus that the cracks aren’t “a major issue of any sort,” said Nigel Page, the Dubai-based carrier’s director of commercial operations for the Americas region. In an interview from Seattle, he said he wasn’t aware if the airline had found any cracks. The carrier is closely monitoring its A380 fleet, it said.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said in an e- mailed statement that its engineers are working with EASA on the issue. No U.S. airlines operate the jet.
Airbus has developed a “repair solution” that can be applied if necessary, Enders said. The planemaker is also applying a fix on aircraft being built, he said. The issue won’t affect other aircraft types, he said.
Engineers first discovered the wing-rib feet cracks in an Qantas A380 that was being repaired following a mid-air engine explosion in November 2010. It was thought the cracks were related to the accident until more were discovered in other A380s.
Korean Air Lines Co. hasn’t found any cracks in its five A380s, it said by e-mail. China Southern Airlines Co. is operating A380 flights as normal, said You Yingping, a spokesman. He wasn’t able to immediately comment on checks.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA)’s fleet of eight A380s is as yet unaffected by the cracks, Patrick Meschenmoser, a Frankfurt- based spokesman, said by phone.
Air France KLM Group, whose Air France unit operates four A380s, has been informed about the possibility of cracks and will take any necessary measures, Brigitte Barrand, a spokeswoman, said by telephone without indicating whether the airline had discovered any cracks.