Der Spiegel has reported that repairs to the hairline cracks detected in a few ‘L’ brackets in Airbus A380 aircraft wings could cost nearly €1.5 million per aircraft to repair. The total cost of the repair programme could be as high as €100 million. 68 A380 airbuses are currently in service.
On 8 February the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) mandated inspections of all A380 wings, following the discovery of 36 cracks of about 2 centimetres in the ‘L’-shaped rib feet of an aircraft in the Qantas fleet. These cracks stretched from the rib to skin panel attachment on the underside of the main wings. The A380 has in the region of 4000 wing brackets on each aircraft, so 36 is a low number.
The EASA does not require A380s to be removed from service.
New aircraft are expected to have modified brackets that will not crack in this way. Airbus have been frank about the nature of the problem which was caused by three design errors: an unsuitable type of aluminium alloy was used for some of the brackets inside the wings, the bolts selected caused undue strain and the means for closing tiny gaps resulted in increased stress on some brackets.
A380 wings are manufactured in Britain.
Such problems are fairly common on aircraft newly introduced to service. Airbus competitor Boeing has also had its share of problems with fuselages of the new model 787.