The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is moving closer to certifying proposed permanent repairs and newly designed wings for the A380 following the detection of cracks in wing rib feet onboard numerous in-service aircraft last year.
EASA expects to certify the permanent modification to wings of in-service aircraft and those that have been built—but not yet delivered—in the first quarter of the year, according to an official. EASA certified the work for in-service aircraft in late December 2012, although the approval comes with a two-year limit because some of the paperwork is not yet finalized. That preliminary certification is to be replaced with a permanent approval in the first quarter alongside full certification of the work on aircraft that are completed, but have not yet been delivered.
Certification of the newly designed wing is now expected to occur in the second quarter of this year, although EASA has not commented on the exact schedule. The new wings will become available in early 2014. Qatar Airways has deferred delivery of its first A380 by several months to enable Airbus to integrate the redesign on all Qatar aircraft.
In-service aircraft are currently subject to short-interval checks and preliminary repairs that have to be repeated, depending on utilization. The permanent fix, which includes replacement of several hybrid ribs composed of composites and the Al 7449 alloy, is expected to require aircraft to be grounded several weeks. Airbus has also offered to provide airlines with a repair schedule that can be included in C checks so that no additional ground time is needed. However, this accommodation would spread out modifications over a longer period.
The modifications to in-service and yet-to-be-delivered aircraft involve 120 units, 92 of which had been delivered by the end of last November.