The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) ordered Airbus A380 operators to inspect certain fuselage frame fittings to detect cracks, heeding industry input to eliminate a minimum threshold requirement before the work can take place.

The directive (AD 2013-0266), published yesterday and effective Nov. 18, requires special detailed inspections of fuselage frame 56 cruciform fittings.

Cracks in the area developed during full-scale fatigue testing. 

The checks must be performed before airframes reach 4,200 cycles or 30,900 flight hours, whichever occurs first. Follow-up actions vary based on findings, but all aircraft must eventually be modified based on Airbus instructions sent out to operators in July 2013.

EASA’s draft directive suggested operators conduct the work within a specified window starting at 2,800 cycles or 30,900 hr. However, Qantas requested that the minimum wait time be eliminated to allow for more flexibility in working the modifications into scheduled maintenance intervals. 

“From an operator perspective it is important to have the flexibility to accomplish the inspection earlier than the mandated compliance time if it better suits the maintenance program,” Qantas tells EASA in comments on the proposed directive.

“It is also beneficial if the inspection is made as early as practicable to reduce risk of finding large cracks that may require extensive rework and provide less residual life.”

EASA agreed, modifying the final directive to include maximum deadlines. However, EASA notes that Airbus recommends that aircraft operate for 2,800 cycles or 20,600 hr. before the work is done “in order to minimize the risk of further repair” before the airframe reaches the end of its design service goal (DSG). The A380’s DSG is 19,000 cycles, 140,000 hr. or 25 years, whichever comes first.