Qantas has discovered, and repaired, limited rib-foot cracking in all three Airbus A380s inspected so far under an airworthiness directive.

In all three cases, cracks were found in fewer than 10 locations, and all the aircraft are back in service, says Qantas in an update on the matter.

Inspections of wing rib-feet brackets on all A380s were required by the European Aviation Safety Agency directive issued in early 2012.

The Australian carrier says: "The cracking is found in a bracket that connects the wing rib to the skin of the aircraft. There are about 4,000 such brackets on an A380. Airbus has confirmed that it poses no risk whatsoever to the safety of A380 operations."

The three aircraft in which cracks were discovered were VH-OQA, VH-OQB, and VH-OQC. Of these, VH-0QB and VH-OQC were inspected upon reaching 1,300 cycles - the limit set out in the directive.

VH-OQA's checks were undertaken as part of an extensive repair programme in Singapore, where the aircraft was stranded for 18 months following an uncontained engine failure in November 2010.

"Qantas has not been 'forced to ground' aircraft," Qantas executive Olivia Wirth stresses. "Like every other A380 operator, we are complying fully with a regulatory requirement.

"Similar airworthiness directives apply to many minor issues across various aircraft types around the world."

She says that at no time has more than one Qantas A380 been out of service related to the rib-foot cracking issue, with the inspection schedule for the aircraft planned in advance.

"As each subsequent Qantas A380 approaches 1,300 flights it will be inspected and, if necessary, repaired," she adds. "The A380 is 100% safe to fly. It remains the most popular aircraft in the Qantas fleet."

Costs of the repairs are covered under Qantas' warranty arrangements with Airbus.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news