The European Aviation Safety Agency has provided new guidance for A380 operators on how to deal with wing component cracking that has been troubling the fleet.The new airworthiness directive is aimed at operators whose A380s have undergone a first round of interim repairs to address cracks in some wing rib-feet in both wings.
The updated guidance sets two different inspection requirements.
A first wave of aircraft to receive an interim fix now need to undergo inspection after another 560 flight cycles from the initial repair, which is the equivalent of around one year of service.
Airbus later modified the interim fix process to provide a more robust band-aide. Aircraft that underwent the latter process can fly up to 1,200 flight cycles, or around two years, before coming under scrutiny again.
Most of the aircraft will be governed by the 560 flight cycle regime.
In case cracks are found new repairs have to be undertaken.
Airbus expects to have a final fix approved and ready for installation by the time airlines hit those inspection point. The final fix is to restore the A380 wing’s full life cycle of 19,000 lift cycles.
Up to now, airlines have been operating under a directive that required inspection by the time A380s reach 1,300 flight cycles.
Airbus expects that around 120 A380s need to be retrofit before aircraft start being delivered that have the final fix installed on the product line.
Airbus is absorbing much of the costs associated with the problems, although some airlines are looking for greater compensation to offset operational losses incurred when the A380 is out of service for the repair. Retrofitting the final fix could take 60 days, says Emirates Airlines chief executive Tim Clark.
EASA has not, yet, signed off on the final fix.