World’s biggest super-jumbos must be GROUNDED, say engineers after cracks are found in the wings of three Airbus A380s

Cracks found in two Singapore Air super-jumbos, and one Qantas
Both airlines admit cracks, but say planes are safe
‘We can’t continue to gamble with lives’ – engineer

By Rob Waugh
Last updated at 6:51 PM on 9th January 2012

Australian aircraft engineers have called for Airbus A380 – the world’s biggest passenger aircraft – to be grounded, after Singapore Airlines and Qantas found cracks in the wings of their super-jumbos.

‘We can’t continue to gamble with people’s lives and allow those aircraft to fly around and hope that they make it until their four-yearly inspection,’ said Steve Purvinas, secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association.

Both airlines, and Airbus, admitted that they had discovered cracks, but maintained that the aircraft were safe. In total, 67 Airbus A380s are in use worldwide, on seven airlines.The aircraft are in use by Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Air France, Lufthansa, Korean Airlines and China Southern.

Australian engineers say that Airbus A380s should be grounded, rather than flying around for four years before their next inspection, after cracks appeared in the wings of Singapore Airlines super-jumbos and one from Qantas

‘We confirm that cracks were found on non-critical wing attachments on a limited number of A380s,’ an Airbus spokesperson said today.

‘We’ve traced the origin of these hairline cracks, and developed an inspection and repair procedure which can be done during routine maintenance.’

Singapore Airlines, the world’s second-biggest carrier, operates 14 A380s already and has five on order, while Qantas has taken delivery of 10 of its order of 20 A380 aircraft.

The A380 has been in service for five years. It seats 525 passengers in a typical three-class arrangement. In total, 238 of the aircraft have been ordered by 17 airlines worldwide.

The aeroplanes are assembled in Toulouse, but parts are built across Europe, with the wings being built in Broughton, Wales.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Qantas Airways said on Friday they discovered cracks on the wing ribs of their Airbus A380s, but said the cracks pose no threat to safety and repairs have been carried out.

The remarks came after Airbus said on Thursday that engineers discovered minor cracks in the wings of a ‘limited number’ of A380s, but said the cracks were not affecting the safety of the aircraft.

‘Cracks were found on a small number of wing rib feet on an Airbus A380 during inspections in the second half of last year. These pose no safety issue and repairs were carried out on the aircraft,’ SIA’s spokesman Nicholas Ionides said in an email.

‘Repairs were subsequently carried out on a second aircraft. We have kept the relevant regulatory authorities fully informed and will be carrying out inspections and any necessary repairs on other A380s as they go in for routine checks,’ he added.

Qantas separately said that ‘minuscule cracking’ was found in the wing ribs of the Qantas A380 being repaired in Singapore after one of its Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines suffered a mid-air blowout in 2010.

‘Investigations have found that the cracking is unrelated to the engine failure incident experienced by this aircraft in November 2010 and is not unique to Qantas. It has now been repaired,’ the carrier said in a statement.

‘No immediate action is required by A380 operators because the cracking presents no risk whatsoever to flight safety,’ Qantas said.

Airbus said it has traced the origin of the problem and developed an inspection and repair procedure that will be done during routine, scheduled four-year maintenance checks.

SIA, the world’s second-biggest carrier by market value and the first operator of such aircraft, operates 14 A380s and has five on order, while Qantas has taken delivery of 10 of its 20 A380 aircraft on order, according to the airline’s website.

Both Singapore Airlines and Qantas are using Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines on their A380 fleets.

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