Qantas grounds A380 amid EASA inspection order

Qantas has grounded one of its Airbus A380 aircraft pending investigation of hairline cracks found in certain structural components inside the plane’s wings.

The cracks, the largest of which amounted to less than an inch in length, were not as large as those discovered by Airbus itself last month. Airbus states that those cracks, termed “type two” cracks, do not represent a safety risk.

Two Qantas planes were found to have cracks in the wings during routine maintenance checks. In one case, the cracks were found after the aircraft had encountered heavy turbulence over India during a January flight from London to Singapore.

Qantas does not believe the turbulence caused the cracks. A spokesman for Qantas said that the cracks are different from those which prompted European regulators to call for inspections. The spokesman added that the cracks seemed to be the result of a manufacturing problem at Airbus.

Airbus has stated that the type two cracks do not represent a safety hazard. However, the European Aviation Safety Agency has ordered all Airbus A380s to be inspected. While Qantas has not reported any type two cracks, other operators, such as Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and Air France, have.

Airbus repeated its statement that the cracks do not represent an immediate safety concern, and added that the problem is not related to fatigue, but rather to a flaw in the manufacturing process.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s reports can be found here and here.

The double-decker A380 is currently the world’s largest jetliner. After numerous technical delays, it entered commercial service with launch customer Emirates in 2007.