By GEIR MOULSON, Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) — Europe's air safety authority has ordered checks on the entire global fleet of Airbus A380 superjumbo jets for cracks on parts inside the wings — extending a previous order to check nearly a third of the planes.
The European Aviation Safety Agency last month issued an airworthiness directive calling for "a detailed visual inspection" of the aircraft's so-called "wing rib feet" — the metal brackets that connect the wing's ribs to its skin.
That order applied to the 20 planes that have flown the most. EASA spokesman Dominique Fouda said the agency on Wednesday would publish an updated directive extending the checks to the entire fleet of 68, currently flying with seven different airlines.
"In parallel, we are working with Airbus on a long-term fix that should be ready by the summer," Fouda said.
He said the decision to extend the order was made "given the first results" of the inspections, but said he didn't have details on how many cracks have been found in total.
EASA's original Jan. 20 order came after Airbus said it had found new cracks on the brackets inside the wings of two superjumbos after inspections launched following a 2010 incident in which a Qantas A380's engine disintegrated in flight.
The agency gave airlines between four days and six weeks from Jan. 24 to carry out checks on the initial batch of planes.
Under the extended order, planes that have flown fewer than 1,300 takeoff and landing cycles will have to be checked before reaching that point; and planes that have flown more will have to be inspected within three weeks, Fouda said.
Sixty-eight of the double-decker, $390 million jets are flying with seven airlines — including Dubai's Emirates, the largest A380 operator with 20 of the aircraft now flying. The jet seats 525 people in three classes.
Earlier Wednesday, Australia's Qantas Airways said it was temporarily grounding one of its A380s after discovering dozens of hairline cracks in its wings. It said, however, that the cracks were of a different type from those that prompted EASA's Jan. 20 directive.
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