Airbus is working flat out to resolve A380 technical issues in the wake of a brief grounding of the Qantas fleet and concerns by Emirates about declining reliability.

"We've a number of unrelated issues that have brought down despatch reliability," says Emirates Airline president Tim Clark, adding that the airframer has "gone overboard to sort things out".

There are 13 A380s in service with three airlines - Emirates (four), Qantas (three) and Singapore Airlines (six). Qantas suffered the most recent high-profile problems this week, when technical issues grounded all three of its A380s briefly. The airline says two A380s were declared "unserviceable with a fuel tank indication system problem", while the third "experienced a nose-wheel ground steering issue and an unrelated fuel leak issue".

Qantas A380
 © Qantas

Airbus's head of A380 product marketing Richard Carcaillet declines to reveal the A380 fleet's current technical dispatch reliability, as the figure is "not meaningful yet" due the small operating fleet. "It is not significantly bad, but it is not where we want it to be," he says.

"This is not a crisis. We have a number of small issues for which we have developed fixes, some of which have already been retrofitted."

One of the older reliability issues has been a fuel pump problem that has required a modification, but Carcaillet says this was not related to the Qantas grounding.

In response to concerns about declining reliability, the airframer recently gave customers "a reaffirmation that 'we are on the case' and that fixing these problems is our top priority from senior management down", says Carcaillet.

Clark confirms that Airbus chief executive Tom Enders "has made it a top priority in the organisation and follows the reliability on a daily basis".

While Airbus has reduced the support provided to customers compared with the "enhanced" level offered for the early months of operation, it continues to provide significant assistance, says Clark. "Support teams have been with us since August 2008, Airbus has placed a substantial inventory of line spares at New York, London, Sydney and Auckland at its expense."

The 13-strong A380 fleet has to date accumulated 31,500h and 3,000 cycles in revenue service since the October 2007 debut with SIA.


Source: Flight International