Singapore Airlines Airbus A380

EASA extends checks of Airbus A380

The European Aviation Safety Agency has ordered the entire global fleet of Airbus A380 superjumbos to be checked for cracks inside the wings.

The EASA last month ordered “a detailed visual inspection” of a third of the planes, but yesterday announced it was extending the checks to the entire fleet of 68, currently flying with seven different airlines.

"In parallel, we are working with Airbus on a long-term fix that should be ready by the summer," a spokesman said. He said the decision to extend the order was made "given the first results" of the inspections, but said he didn't have details on how many cracks have been found in total.

The checks are on the aircraft's "wing rib feet" - the metal brackets that connect the wing's ribs to its skin.

EASA's original order came after Airbus said it had found new cracks on the brackets inside the wings of two superjumbos after inspections launched following a 2010 incident in which a Qantas A380's engine disintegrated in flight.

The agency gave airlines between four days and six weeks from January 24 to carry out checks on the initial batch of planes.

Under the extended order, planes that have flown fewer than 1,300 takeoff and landing cycles will have to be checked before reaching that point; and planes that have flown more will have to be inspected within three weeks, the spokesman said.

Sixty-eight of the double-decker, £245 million jets are flying with seven airlines - including Dubai's Emirates, the largest A380 operator with 20 of them. The jet seats 525 people in three classes.

Earlier yesterday, Qantas said it was temporarily grounding one of its A380s after discovering dozens of hairline cracks in its wings. It said, however, that the cracks were of a different type from those that prompted EASA's directive.

Airbus said it has developed repair kits for the problem, which are currently being installed, and that the aircraft remained safe to fly.

"These brackets are located on wing ribs which are not main load bearing structure, and, thus, the safe operation of the aircraft is not affected," the company said. "Nearly 4,000 such brackets are used on the A380 to join the wing-skin to the ribs. Only a handful of brackets per aircraft have been found to have been affected."

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