Airbus says Cracks found on A380 are not Serious

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 21st, 2012

Week in Review

There are few things more dangerous to an airplane than cracks.  Whether in the fuselage.  Or on a wing.  Some horrific accidents were caused by small hairline stress fractures that grew under the stresses and loads of flying.  The greatest loss of life in a single aircraft accident was a 747 flying out of Haneda.  Japan Airlines Flight 123.

On a previous landing the pilot stuck the tail on the runway, requiring repairs on the rear pressure bulkhead.  But they did these repairs incorrectly.  They used a single row of rivets instead of a double row.  As the plane took off and landed the plane pressurized and depressurized putting great stress on that repaired bulkhead.  The metal fatigue produced hairline cracks.  And then on August 12, 1985 after the plane gained altitude and pressurized the rear pressure bulkhead failed and blew out causing an explosive decompression.  The force was so great it tore the tailfin from the plane and took out all four hydraulic control systems.  The plane was uncontrollable.  And crashed killing 520 of the 524 aboard.

So cracks on an airplane are very serious.  And now they found some cracks on the largest commercial jet in service today.  The Airbus A380 (see More cracks found in Airbus A380 wings by Tim Hepher posted 1/19/2012 on Reuters).

Airbus said the cracks were found on a number of “non-critical” brackets inside the wings of two aircraft during routine two-year inspections, after similar flaws showed up in five aircraft in early January.

It said the cracks did not prevent the A380 flying safely, but the Australian engineering body which handles routine servicing and engine checks on the superjumbos operated by Qantas Airways (QAN.AX) said Airbus’s reaction was concerning.

“They (Airbus) have described these as tiny cracks, but every crack starts off as a tiny crack and they can grow very quickly ,” said Stephen Purvinas, Federal Secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association.

“I would be worried that Airbus aren’t taking seriously the ever increasing number of cracks being found in the wings of their A380 aircraft .

Now nothing will hurt the sales of an airplane more than a reputation for not being safe.  So if the aircraft was unsafe the manufacturer would normally not try to hide that.  They would instead try to fix the problem as quickly as possible.  This is the miracle of capitalism.  If you produce an inferior product you won’t sell it.  If Boeing had a problem on their 747 they would do everything within their power to fix the problem before something bad could happen.  As would Airbus.  However, Airbus isn’t your run of the mill capitalistic manufacturer.  They are heavily subsidized by their governments.  In what is more state capitalism than free market capitalism.  So Airbus will do the right thing.  Unless pressured by their governments not to.  For political reasons.  Such as maintaining A380 sales to boost their collective ailing economies.

Let’s hope that the governments involved are letting Airbus manage this issue.  They will do the right thing.  For no one in the aircraft community wants any plane to be unsafe.

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