First permanent A380 wing-fix nearly complete

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Engineers have almost completed work on the first Airbus A380 to undergo the permanent full-life fix for the cracking problem affecting wing-rib brackets.

Around half of the 100 Airbus A380s in service are operating with a temporary fix, as individual airframes reach a cycle limit set out by European regulators.

But the European Aviation Safety Agency has already effectively approved Airbus's proposed full-life repair, and is finalising the publication of the directive which will mandate the change.

This has enabled work to begin on repairing the in-service fleet, as well as those A380s which will enter the final assembly line before Airbus has modified its wing-production process.

No customer A380s have yet flown with the permanent fix but Airbus says the first is "nearly complete", although the airframer declines to identify the operator.

Airbus says it has had an "agreement" with EASA, essentially clearing the repair work, since the end of 2012. "The fix was good but the paperwork has taken a bit more time," says the airframer. "We've already started the retrofits."

Lufthansa Technik has been carrying out a full-life repair on one of the German carrier's A380s at Frankfurt since February, and says the work takes 40-50 days.

The company is scheduled to perform the same repairs on 31 A380s, comprising 10 for Lufthansa, 12 for Qantas - at its Philippines centre - plus nine for Emirates at Ameco Beijing.

Airbus has forecast that around 120 A380s will ultimately need the full-life fix before production changes for the type's wings - notably the inclusion of all-metal ribs - catch up with the delivery schedule.

EASA will need separately to certify the modification. The first aircraft with the all-new wing will be delivered in the first quarter of 2014.

Airbus has not disclosed the initial recipient, although Qatar Airways - which has 10 A380s on order, the first of which had been due for delivery later this year - has previously insisted upon acquiring aircraft only with a satisfactory permanent solution in place.