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  (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



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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.

Source: http://www.airsafe.com/events/models/rate_mod.htm

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.

Source: http://www.nhtsa.gov/FARS

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

http://travel.usatoday.com/flights/2011-01-21-RWai...

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...


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