Airbus Found Reason Why A380 Wing Cracks are Propagating. Why didn’t the Certification Process catch this Issue?

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ARTICLE: Airbus CEO Says Wing Cracks Show Risk of Technology Leaps

Airbus SAS Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders

Airbus SAS Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders

The first A380 was delivered in 2009 and presently six air carriers are flying of 75 A380’s. Cracks were first detected by Qantas in January 2012 and EASA published an Airworthiness Directive (AD), later that month, requiring wing bracket inspections after the aircraft reached 1,400 cycles.

On May 9, 2012 Airbus announced that a design flaw was allowing cracks (2 centimeters) to propagate and that they developed a repair for both the operational A380’s as well as those being manufactured. In addition the 60 A380s that were grounded were OK to fly while the repair was being implemented. Airbus also informed operators that the repair should be implemented when the airplane reached the 1,300 hours of flight time. However, Qantas found cracks on its fleet with fewer cycles and hours.

The Airbus CEO recently stated that Airbus had not completely understood how the materials used in the wing would function:

“We thought we understood the properties of the materials and the interface between carbon fiber and metal and found out the wrong way – we didn’t know everything.”

Now that Airbus has found the source of these cracks, EASA must issue another AD directing how repairs must be made to the wings.

Besides addressing the immediate concern of repairs and redesign both EASA needs to take a hard look at their certification and testing processes and requirements and failure mode affects analysis to better understand the material properties and interfaces and make the appropriate changes to the Type Certification process.

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