Airbus A380: World's largest passenger plane fuels safety concerns

Cracks have been found within the wings of the Airbus A380 passenger airliner, prompting calls by engineers for the fleet to be grounded.

Small cracks have appeared on the wing ribs of some Airbus A380 models. Australian aircraft engineers have raised concerns over the flaws, calling for an investigation in to the fleet.

The engineers have suggested that the worldwide fleet of Airbus A380's should be grounded pending inspection, after several airlines found evidence of the cracks.

The Airbus A380 is the largest passenger airliner currently in use. It boasts a double deck and four-engine build, and has been adopted by airlines globally.

The A380 model was designed to challenge Boeing's monopoly on the large passenger transport market, and entered initial commercial use in 2007. Many airports have had to modify their facilities to accommodate its size since its entry in to the market.

The plane is able to transport 525 passengers in standard configuration, topping more than 800 if all passengers are economy class.

A380's operated by Singapore Airlines and Quantas airways recently found evidence of cracks within wing ribs of the passenger airliners. A statement released by the company has been quoted by the BBC:

"We confirm that minor cracks were found on some noncritical wing rib-skin attachments on a limited number of A380 aircraft. We have traced the origin. Airbus has developed an inspection and repair procedure, which will be done during regular, routine scheduled four-year maintenance checks. In the meantime, Airbus emphasizes that the safe operation of the A380 fleet is not affected."

Some Australian engineers have called for the entire fleet to become grounded, whereas Airbus insist they are aware of the problem -- and it does not adversely affect passenger safety. They key is 'noncritical' -- if the airline considers the metal fatigue in certain parts of the wing as repairable through four-year inspections, then it may not be a serious concern.

However, some engineers disagree, and suggest that four-year routine checks and quick repairs may not be enough. Aircraft are technology reliant -- if small flaws are not attended to now, perhaps this will lead to more extreme issues in the future.

After all, if an aircraft suffers complications due to known wing flaws, the consequences could mean the ruination of a company, as well as the potential loss of lives.

Photo credit: David Toso/Flickr

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