Some airlines also may defer taking delivery of the aircraft until the permanent solution is installed.
In the retrofit, all 23 hybrid ribs will be replaced with all-metallic ribs, and the rib feet will be strengthened. An inspection hole in the area where the cracking takes place also will be strengthened.
The permanent fix, which replaces all the composite ribs with metal ones, should be available in early 2013; the change should not affect the aircraft’s weight.
Airbus also has adapted its A380 design process to improve its finite element modeling techniques to catch such problems earlier, and is applying more stringent measures to the development program for its A350 widebody. In most cases, the materials are different, but where the aluminum alloy involved in the A380s has been used it has been replaced with aluminum lithium.
Meanwhile, Airbus is gradually seeing improvements in dispatch reliability of the A380 to 97.6%, and as high as 98.6% in March. “It is going in the right direction,” says Airbus Chief Operating Officer for Customers John Leahy, although he acknowledges this reliability rate still trails that of the company’s other aircraft products.
Leahy also hopes to book 30 A380 orders this year, but says that is “a stretch.”
The aircraft maker next year expects to deliver the first A380 to Emirates Airline with 575 metric tons maximum takeoff weight (MTOW), which boosts the aircraft’s range to 8,500 nm.
Also becoming available is a 490-metric-ton maximum takeoff weight version, which complies with more stringent noise requirements and should allow airlines like Emirates to operate early-hour flights at slot-constrained airports, such as London Heathrow.
Emirates already has signed up to take a 510-metric-ton MTOW A380, to be used in regional routes with about 650 seats.