Airbus A380 operators face a 30,000 man-hour repair programme to address wing-crack issues that have dogged the airliner which will require an eight-week downtime if implemented in one instalment.

The European airframer confirms that if airlines choose to undertake the repair "nose-to-tail" it will require around eight weeks to implement. However Airbus says that it expects most operators would opt to adopt the phased approach spread out over three two-year heavy checks which is less disruptive. In this case, it expects the repair would extend each two-to-three week heavy check by "a few days".

Emirates, which is the biggest A380 operator with 21 in service, is undertaking the repair to each aircraft in one instalment. It says the work will require 30,000 man-hours to implement. The Emirates fleet will be repaired in Airbus facilities or by other organisations on Airbus's behalf because the Dubai carrier does not have the capacity to undertake the work in house.

A380s featuring the recently-introduced revised wing design incorporating more twist and a lighter structure will need to be modified slightly earlier as the wing-crack issue has "a slightly greater effect" on these wings.

The retrofit modification will be subject to an airworthiness directive from the European Aviation Safety Agency, which Airbus expects to be issued this summer. It will be available for retrofit in the first quarter of next year.

A modification for new-build aircraft will become available for incorporation on the wing production line at the end of this year. There is an approximately 10-month lead-time on the wing, meaning that this will apply to A380s delivered from early 2014.

Airbus says that it expects that most A380 operators receiving new A380s in 2013 will opt to have their wings repaired during final assembly, resulting in a four-to-six week delay. However some airlines with a more urgent need for their aircraft will decide to have the work carried out retrospectively, it adds.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news