June 13, 2012
Emirates Airline says it is facing massive costs and huge operational disruptions as it resolves problems with wing rib feet cracking on its Airbus A380 fleet, and is preparing for negotiations with the European airframer about compensation.
Airline President Tim Clark, talking to Aviation Week on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association annual general assembly in Beijing, says Airbus Chief Operating Officer-Customers “John Leahy has said there is no compensation, but we take a different view,” adding, “They [Airbus] have a legal obligation to fix the aircraft at their expense.”
However, he concedes that the purchase contracts do not include clauses for this scenario, noting, “In all fairness, nobody would ever have contemplated anything like this.”
The financial impact on the airline is significant and continues to grow, with Clark estimating that the A380 wing problems have a $30 million monthly impact on the carrier’s bottom line.
Emirates external auditors claim the actual effect is closer to $50 million per month.
Emirates is the largest A380 operator with 21 aircraft in service. It will take delivery of another 23 by early 2014, but these aircraft still have the old wing design.
Airbus has developed a short-term repair program for the in-service fleet, and has designed a longer-term fix for the first 120 aircraft to be delivered by early 2014 that will include modified wing rib feet, among other modifications, to avoid the Type 1 and Type 2 cracks of the original wing design.
The retrofit replaces all of the 23 hybrid ribs, which are made of a mix of 7449 aluminum and a composite material, with all-metallic ribs made of 7010 alloy. The rib feet also will be redesigned to strengthen them, and an inspection manhole in the area where the cracking occurs will be reinforced.
Clark says Emirates discovered 700 Type 1 cracks in the two wings of one aircraft. The more serious Type 2 cracks are much less common.