Factory, design flaws caused A380 cracks

Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:08pm EST
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By Tim Hepher

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Airbus blamed a combination of manufacturing and design flaws as more examples of wing cracks arose during checks on the A380, while analysts said its bare-all strategy of addressing the problems in public should limit any lasting damage.

A top executive at the European planemaker said it had established how to repair the cracks found on a small number of parts inside the superjumbo's wings, which prompted European safety authorities to order inspections last week.

Airbus and one of the leading operators, Singapore Airlines, confirmed a Reuters report that more examples of the cracks had been discovered during compulsory inspections.

Airbus moved to shore up confidence in the world's largest jetliner amid a drip-feed of disclosures about cracking on components used to fix the outside of the wing to its ribcage.

"The A380 is safe to fly," Tom Williams, executive vice president of programmes at Toulouse-based Airbus, said.

Williams flew to Dublin to give an unscheduled address at an industry conference to dampen any concerns about safety.

Crucially, he said engineers had ruled out metal fatigue on the youthful aircraft which first entered service in 2007.

Unusually detailed briefings marked a different response from the blowout of an engine on a Qantas (QAN.AX: Quote) A380 in November 2010 when engine maker Rolls-Royce (RR.L: Quote) was criticized by the industry and investors for not giving enough information.   Continued...