The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is moving closer to certifying proposed permanent repairs and newly designed wings for the Airbus A380 following the detection of cracks in wing rib feet on 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 2013, according to an official. EASA approved of the work for in-service aircraft by the end of December but put a two-year limit on the approval; some paperwork also had not been finalized. The preliminary certification will be replaced with a permanent approval in the first quarter along with the certification of the work on completed but yet-to-be-delivered aircraft.
Certification of the newly designed wing is now expected to happen in the second quarter of 2013, 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 on order.
In-service aircraft are currently subject to short-interval checks and preliminary repairs that must be repeated depending on utilization. The permanent fix, which includes the replacement of several hybrid ribs made of composites and the Al 7449 alloy, is expected to require aircraft to be grounded for several weeks. Airbus also has offered airlines a repair schedule that can be included in C-checks, so that no additional ground time is needed. However, that would spread modifications over a longer period of time.
The modifications affect 120 aircraft, 92 of which had been delivered by the end of November 2012.