EASA Directive Targets Airbus A380 Fuselage Reinforcement

An Emirates A380 tail cone.
Credit: Airbus / A. Doumenjou

EASA plans to mandate an Airbus-recommended fuselage modification which addresses A380 fuselage cracks operators are discovering when conducting a similar fix required by the European regulator.

In a proposed airworthiness directive (PAD) issued Sept. 7, EASA would give affected operators 2,100 flight cycles (FC) or 15,400 flight hours (FH) following a final directive, or a total of 6,750 FC/49,700FH—whichever comes later—to implement the repairs. 

The latest issue stems from fatigue and damage-tolerance analysis that showed fuselage skin-to-frame attachments in the rear cone, or section 19, “are unable to reach the design service goal of the airplane,” EASA’s directive explained. 

Airbus developed a fix, which EASA mandated in mid-2019. But the repairs turned up more issues.

“During implementation of the modification on some airplanes, cracks were detected at hole and corner radii locations,” EASA said. “Prompted by these findings, a new analysis and laboratory tests have been performed and, based on the results, a new solution has been designed.”

Airbus outlined the new modification in an August 2021 service bulletin. EASA’s proposed mandate is based on the bulletin.

The manufacturer introduced a production-line change in the fall of 2019, first incorporated into manufacturer serial no. 260, that addresses the issue on new-build aircraft. The proposed mandate affects about 240 aircraft built before the production modification. Several of these have been retired or are in storage and are unlikely to return, however.

The EASA directive, PAD 21-134, would cover only European Union-registered aircraft, but other regulars would likely adopt the mandate.

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.