Airbus orders more frequent A380 wing fatigue checks

Thu Mar 6, 2014 5:42pm EST
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By Tim Hepher

BERLIN (Reuters) - Europe's Airbus (AIR.PA: Quote) has ordered more frequent inspections of the wings of the world's largest passenger jet after discovering unexpected levels of metal fatigue during testing on an A380 factory mock-up, industry sources said on Thursday.

The planemaker has asked airlines to inspect the wing's "spars" or main internal beams during regular major overhauls carried out after six years in service, and then again at 12 years, instead of waiting for the 12-year overhaul, they said.

The move comes as Airbus emerges from a painful two-year program of modifications and hundreds of millions of euros of financial charges triggered by the discovery of cracks on brackets inside the wings of A380 jets already flying.

This time, however, Airbus has not so far been able to duplicate the fatigue test results on any aircraft in service.

The double-decker A380 entered service in 2007 with Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI: Quote) followed by the largest customer, Emirates, which would be first in line to carry out the increased checks.

An Airbus spokeswoman confirmed the discovery of unspecified "fatigue findings" on a factory test plane.

"This will be addressed during routine maintenance inspections and the aircraft remains safe to fly," she said.

Most aircraft undergo a regular pattern of checks from small daily ones to heavy maintenance checks every five or six years.   Continued...

An Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger jet, flies during the Dubai Airshow November 18, 2013. REUTERS/Caren Firouz