The European Aviation Safety Agency has issued the first of what likely will be several amendments to its airworthiness directive (AD) to airlines to inspect Airbus A380s because of concerns over cracks in L-shaped wing rib-feet that have plagued the fleet.

The move is largely an administrative step after Airbus already determined the entire A380 fleet would likely suffer component cracking because of a manufacturing process flaw that is now being addressed. The original AD covered only 20 A380s (those with more than 1,300 flight cycles). The updated AD calls for aircraft with fewer than 1,216 cycles to undergo the inspection when they reach 1,300 cycles or before; for those between 1,216 and 1,384 cycles, the inspection has to be completed within six weeks and within three weeks for those with 1,384 cycles or more.

Another AD is likely to be issued to cover the further inspection of the aircraft now being fixed, since that remains an interim step. A final fix is still being developed, which is expected to lead to a further call for action by EASA.

The Feb. 8 update also mandates non-destructive testing (NDT) of the component. It is the first time EASA specifically calls for that technique. However, NDT already was in use because Airbus told operators when they detect cracks to use it to assess damage.

The cracks in the rib-feet occur because of a problem in the manufacturing process that places extra stress on the component during wing assembly. The manufacturing process is now being changed to avoid inducing the strain on the component (the material used in the rib-feet also is being changed).

Inspections so far have had limited impact on airline A380s operations—although some flights have had to use smaller aircraft—and the fleet-wide inspection requirement is, similarly, not expected to cause major operational disruptions.

Meanwhile, Qantas has temporarily grounded an A380 because of cracks in the rib-feet. The affected aircraft encountered strong turbulence; while that did not trigger the cracks, inspections after the event led to their discovery. These cracks are different than those covered by the AD. Instead, they occur near the bolt hole and are linked to known cracking in the component covered by an earlier service bulletin.