Qantas grounds A380 after finding 36 cracks on wings

Singapore
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A Qantas Airways Airbus A380 has been grounded after 36 cracks were found on its wings on 5 February.

The aircraft, which bears the registration VH-OQF, had its airframe built in 2010 and has clocked 399 flight cycles totalling 2,454 flight hours, according to Flightglobal's ACAS database.

The aircraft was first grounded when Airbus requested a second phase of precautionary checks on its wings after it went through severe turbulence in January, said Qantas. Airbus made the request after reviewing data of the turbulent flight.

"During these inspections, minor cracking was found on some wing rib brackets. This cracking is not related to the turbulence, or specific to Qantas, but is traced back to a manufacturing issue in this specific wing area of the aircraft," said a Qantas spokesman.

He added that the cracks found are different from the "type two" cracking recently found on other A380s, which are now the subject of a European airworthiness directive.

The cracks are, however, similar to the manufacturing defects discovered earlier on the wing ribs of a Qantas A380 that suffered an uncontained engine failure near Singapore in November 2010, he said. That aircraft is still in Singapore, where it made an emergency landing after the incident, but the cracks have since been repaired.

Qantas is now working with Airbus on the cracks and an "inspection and repair regime" is being developed.

"We will follow Airbus' instructions on any further action that may be required. However we expect the aircraft to be back in service within a week," said the spokesman, adding that Airbus has confirmed that the cracks have no effect on flight safety.

The European Aviation Safety Agency ordered the inspection of 20 Airbus A380s to check for wing rib-foot damage in January after two different forms of cracks were found in the structure of the aircraft. Of the affected aircraft, 10 are with Singapore Airlines, seven with Emirates, one with Air France and two are Airbus test A380s.