February 8, 2012

Watchdog Orders Checks on Every Airbus A380


“Europe’s aviation watchdog called for checks Wednesday on the entire worldwide fleet of Airbus A380 superjumbo jets for cracks on parts inside the wings.

The European Aviation Safety Agency’s move to inspect all 68 A380s in service came as Qantas Airways grounded one of its planes, saying engineers had found 36 wing cracks after the aircraft encountered severe turbulence.”

So, first off, severe turbulence: ugh.

More critical than that, though, is the carbon fiber wing parts' performance under stress. Cracks were first claimed to be a result of the manufacturing process, but this latest discovery appears to come as a result of normal, if heavy stress on the wing.

In other words, the A380 wing appears to develop cracks when stressed as it was designed to do. That's a far more serious problem, because if normal loading causes the wing to deteriorate it can also cause it to fail.

Airbus will ground these aircraft if normal loading is found to cause these cracks. There's no way they'll risk, or be allowed to risk, a wing failure in flight. Imagine the cost to Airbus of such a grounding.