Print 32 comment(s) - last by letmepicyou.. on Jan 27 at 2:25 PM

  (Source: United Artists)
Latest issues come at an inopportune time for Airbus who is trying to fight off Boeing's superjet entrant

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) is sounding the alarm on one of the world's most iconic passenger aircraft designs, claiming that they are suffering from a design flaw.

The aircraft in question is the Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger jet.  The four-engine aircraft is manufactured by Airbus, a subsidiary of The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company N.V. (EADS) (EPA:EAD).  

The airplane, which saw its maiden flight in April 2005, and saw an Oct. 2007 commercial introduction, has enjoyed having no real peer over the last several years, as it offers almost 50 percent more floor space than The Boeing Comp.'s (BA) 747-400.  It packs 478 square metres (5,145.1 sq ft) of floor space.  The A380-800 variant has a range of 15,400 kilometres (8,300 nmi; 9,600 mi) and has a cruising speed of Mach 0.85 (about 900 km/h or 560 mph at cruising altitude), meaning that it can travel from Hong Kong to New York City, without refueling, in only 17 hours.

But according to the Australian engineering group, the deployed aircraft show cracking in their wing ribs.  Steve Purvinas, secretary of the ALAEA, comments, "We can't continue to gamble with people's lives and allow those aircraft to fly around and hope that they make it until their four-yearly inspection."

The cracks were first found on A380s deployed in the fleets of Singapore Airlines (SGX: C6L) and Qantas Airways (ASX: QAN) (which primarily operates out of Australia).  The two airlines account 26 out of the 50 delivered passenger A380-800s, as the second and third largest A380 users.

A380 Plane
The Airbus A380-800 [Image Source: Qantas Airways]

So far no American airline company has adopted A380.  FedEx Corp. (FDX) and United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) placed commercial orders, but later cancelled after being inconvenienced by delays from the aircraft-maker.

BBC News quotes Airbus representatives as confirming the wing rib cracking, but insist it's harmless, and that passengers shouldn't be worried about the cracking wings.  States the company, "We confirm that minor cracks were found on some noncritical wing rib-skin attachments on a limited number of A380 aircraft. We have traced the origin. Airbus has developed an inspection and repair procedure, which will be done during regular, routine scheduled four-year maintenance checks. In the meantime, Airbus emphasizes that the safe operation of the A380 fleet is not affected."

Qantas has thus far repaired two of the members of its fleet that it spotted cracks in.

The A380 had been being considered as a possible upgrade option for the President of the United States' plane, Air Force One.  This is not the first issue to afflict the craft -- earlier wiring issues delayed shipments of the aircraft.

The cracking issues are bad timing for Airbus.  The company is currently trying to sell new customers on the aircraft and ward off Boeing, who just unveiled the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental, a craft that finally brings Boeing abreast of Airbus in the mega-aircraft department.  The 747-8 took its maiden flight in Feb. 2010.

Source: BBC News

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: That's just great !
By Strunf on 1/9/2012 12:40:50 PM , Rating: 3
Completely agree with you, it's the average Joe that should say if a plane is safe or not to fly, engineers are just like any other average Joe with the exception that they are payed for their uninformed opinion!

RE: That's just great !
By kleinma on 1/9/2012 12:45:25 PM , Rating: 2
Doesn't sound like anything some chewed bubble gum and duct tape can't fix.

RE: That's just great !
By Keeir on 1/9/2012 4:14:36 PM , Rating: 3
This seems like a good place to put a reminder.

Modern Aircraft Travel (Plane designed and made after 1975) is the safest per mile mode of transportation.

For example, if you were to live on a B767, one of the highest rate modern aircraft due to the number of high-jacking incidents, you would only experience one fatal flight incident every 1,334 years. If you spent all day in a moving car, the incident rate would be more like one fatal incident every 400 year. All while covering 8 times the distance or more in the plane. Air Travel on a per mile basis is an order of magnitude safer than most people's preferred mode of travel.

(B767 has 1 full lose event per 2.85 million flights. Each flight on a B767 is ~4 hours long on average. 2.85 million * 4 hours * 1 day/24 hours * 1 year/356 days --> 1 full life lost event per 1,334 years. Last year 30,000 people died in car accidents over around 105,000 million passenger hours or 1 death per 3.5 million passenger hours * 1day/24 hours * 1 year/356 days)

RE: That's just great !
By fic2 on 1/9/2012 5:53:18 PM , Rating: 2
For example, if you were to live on a B767, one of the highest rate modern aircraft due to the number of high-jacking incidents, you would only experience one fatal flight incident every 1,334 years.

Yes, but if your fatal flight incident happened in year one I bet you would be pretty bummed.

RE: That's just great !
By Keeir on 1/9/2012 6:12:27 PM , Rating: 2
Some people choke to death while drinking (even just water). Just because there is a statistical chance that while doing a certain activity death is possible is no reason to stop doing it.

Air Travel is safer than pretty much all other forms of -travel-. If you find yourself in a position where you need to travel several hundred miles, then its about as safe as it can be done, and significantly safer than driving a personal car (which on a per mile basis is between 25-50 times more dangerous for death).

RE: That's just great !
By JoJoman88 on 1/9/12, Rating: 0
RE: That's just great !
By JNo on 1/9/2012 8:09:33 PM , Rating: 1
Firstly, there are 365 days in a year, not 356 (and 365.25 if you account for leap years). That brings you to 1 full lose event every 1,301 years. I don't know what a "full lose event" is and neither does google ( and you don't define it.

Assuming you mean an aircraft crash, let's just be conservative and say everyone dies (often the case) - you then need to account for the typical number of passengers on a 767 - let's call it 300 passengers if not at full capacity. So that's 300 lives lost every 1,301 years or and average of 1 life lost per 4 and third years.... making the car 100x safer per hour.

On a "per mile" basis we need to know the average speed of all cars and all B767s which I don't. Guessing 40mph for car and using 500mph for the B767. Call it a factor of 12 difference and the car is still (100 div by 12 =) 8x safer per mile.

And there's more - a car is often door to door travel whereas with aircraft you'll usually need to take trains and cars to get to / from airports - altering the safety rate of the *overall journey*. Plus with air travel you need to account for 2hrs check in time as well as travel to/from, reducing the average speed of the journey, if not the distance travelled or death per mile figures (I'm sure there are some average death per hour spent waiting at the airport figures out there somewhere!)

Obviously if the "full lose event" really is a single death then the planes win and yes, travel on a per mile basis swings further to their favour. Maybe you can point out a public source of your numbers too? (the 1 per 2.85m flights)?

RE: That's just great !
By Keeir on 1/9/2012 10:11:26 PM , Rating: 4
Sorry friend. You need to think things clearly through.

Lets for example say that a B767 typically flys with 250 passengers.

Over 2.85 million flights, the fatality rate is 250 passenger deaths to 712 million safe passenger trips. Or 1 death per 2.85 million safe trips. Number of people involved in a crash is fairly meaningless, unless for some reason a nearly full flight is more likely to crash than an empty flight.


Each trip on a 767 is roughly 4 hours long. Making it 1 death per 11.4 million hours. Flight length is typically around 1,600 miles so, 1 death per 4.65 billion miles.

Now for cars, NHSTA shows that in 2009, one of the safest years every recorded, 1.14 deaths per 100 million miles, or 1 death per 87.7 million miles. The average over 1995-2009, far less than the 767 aircraft, is 1 death per 75 million miles. Assuming ~35 MPH average speed, in 2009 the death rate was roughly 1 death per 2.5 million hours. Average over the 767 in Service Life of 1985-2010 for cars is more like 1 death per 50 million miles.


The way I count things, that makes the 767 roughly 50 times safer per mile (Average over 1985-2010 versus safest year on record for cars). Which BTW means I also ignoring the huge number of non-fatal but significant injury events that occur on cars.

In other words, if I am flying Seattle Washington to Washington DC, my chances of death on that flight of the B767 is roughly 1 out of 2 million.

If I choose to drive from Seattle Washing to Washington DC, my chances of death are 1 out of 32,000.

If I had to drive more than 40 miles to the Seattle Airport and away from the Washington DC airport, the car section of the trip was MORE dangerous than the air portion.

I realize many people have an illogical fear of flying due to the loss of control and the high publicity given to a single accident.

But this story is correct

From 2007-2010, there were THREE years where the US major airlines had zero deaths. Zero. Total death toll was 50 overall. Yes 50. In comparison Car travel netted 155,000 + deaths and several million injuries.

Sorry, people have to be brainsick to believe that flying in the US, Europe, Japan, Australia, etc is less safe than driving in any of those countries. Now if you choose to fly the friendly skies of Somolia, then that is a different story.

RE: That's just great !
By JNo on 1/10/2012 4:08:58 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah you're right - rethinking about it the fatalities per crash is not relevant. BTW I don't have an irrational fear of flying - I love it - I just wanted to understand the figures better.

Anyway, I guess you still contest that there are 356 days a year since you didn't bother to publicly correct that... and I don't know where Somolia is :)

RE: That's just great !
By Keeir on 1/10/2012 11:29:59 AM , Rating: 2
Friend, those are small typographical errors. The intent is fair clear. When I used 356 instead if 365, I used to consistantly...

RE: That's just great !
By ballist1x on 1/10/2012 5:06:07 AM , Rating: 2
Yea but you can get out of the car, you can dodge other cars - to an extent. You have some form of control.

if something ever goes wrong at 30,000 feet, well you're more than a little bit stuck really arent you?

Sure the percentages are better- but the absolute outcome would be far worse in a plane than a car.

RE: That's just great !
By Gondor on 1/10/2012 8:14:39 AM , Rating: 2
Well, you can dodge the ground om that case, yeah ?

RE: That's just great !
By Keeir on 1/10/2012 11:41:26 AM , Rating: 2
but the absolute outcome would be far worse in a plane than a car.

Errr... I am probably a bit confused.

Pretty sure death is death. I guess the few minutes of potential terror in an aircraft is worse... but really, your going to trade almost a 50 times greater chance of death, just so you can slowly bleed out in a car versus wait for impact?

"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Most Popular ArticlesSmartphone Screen Protectors – What To Look For
September 21, 2016, 9:33 AM
UN Meeting to Tackle Antimicrobial Resistance
September 21, 2016, 9:52 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM
5 Cases for iPhone 7 and 7 iPhone Plus
September 18, 2016, 10:08 AM
Update: Problem-Free Galaxy Note7s CPSC Approved
September 22, 2016, 5:30 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki