Boeing, Airbus Tackle Respective Manufacturing Faults

 - February 10, 2012, 9:20 PM
Four Singapore Airlines A380s had to undergo EASA-mandated inspections for cracks in wing-rib feet. (Photo: Airbus)

Boeing and Airbus have each progressed in their efforts to settle manufacturing defects with their respective high-profile airliners. However, while the 787’s potential delamination problem does not require immediate removal of airplanes from service and the manufacturer continues to insist it will not affect production, the problems with the Airbus A380s appear somewhat more serious for the European manufacturer, if only due to the widening scope of the inspection regime.

The EASA has mandated that all 68 A380s in service undergo inspections for new cracks in wing-rib feet. According to the agency, inspectors found different cracks during checks under the initial EASA airworthiness directive (AD2012-0013, now superseded by AD 2012-0026). Originally, some rib feet showed evidence of cracks emanating from the rib-to-skin panel attachment holes, but during inspections “a new form of rib-foot cracking originating from the forward and aft edges of the vertical web of the rib feet has been identified,” according to the agency.

“If not detected and corrected, this may lead to reduction of the structural integrity of the airplane,” it said. Requirements for high-frequency eddy current inspections of certain wing-rib feet have replaced the detailed visual checks the agency first mandated. Aircraft must be checked before they reach 1,300 flight cycles or within six weeks for A380s with 1,216 to 1,383 flight cycles or within just three weeks for those with 1,384 flight cycles or more. The A380 flies with Air France-KLM, China Southern Airlines, Emirates Airline, Korean Air Lines, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.

Meanwhile, Boeing continues its inspection of 787 Dreamliners for “incorrect shimming” of the support structure of their aft fuselages. “We have the issue well defined and are making progress on the repair plan,” a company spokesman told AIN last week. “There is no short-term safety concern. Repairs, should they be needed, will be implemented in the most efficient manner possible. When build issues arise, we have standard processes in place to ensure we are delivering the highest quality products to our customers.” The spokesman emphasized that the condition does not pose a short-term safety concern. “No immediate repair would be necessary, if this issue were to exist on any aircraft in service,” he said.

The improper work could result in delamination of part of the airplane’s aft fuselage. The company did not comment on how long the inspections would take to perform or how many airplanes need repair. However, close to fifty 787s must undergo inspection.

Launch customer ANA of Japan now operates five Dreamliners. The airline had to cancel two flights, one on January 26 from Frankfurt to Tokyo due to flap problems, and another on January 30 from Tokyo to Frankfurt due to a flight-control software glitch. Both airplanes have since returned to service. ANA launched long-haul service between the two cities on January 21.