Airbus finds cracks in new A380

Sarah Gardner Feb 8, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: You want the latest and greatest in technology, there are going to be some risks involved. Big risks, sometimes.

European airline regulators are ordering inspections of Airbus A380s, the double-decker super jumbo jet, after cracks in the wings were discovered.

Marketplace’s Sarah Gardner has the story.

Sarah Gardner: You might not want to hear this, but cracks aren’t that uncommon on airplanes, says aviation professor Joe Vacek.

Joseph Vacek: All airplanes that we fly around in are made of aluminum.  And just like a soda can, aluminum cracks if you bend it back and forth enough.

Even newer planes made with composites, like the A380,  still have aluminum parts. But some cracks do matter more than others. The Airbus cracks were inside the central part of the wing and if left untouched, could eventually pose a safety problem.

Analyst Scott Hamilton.

Scott Hamilton: It’s a simple fix. It’s an expensive fix, Airbus has told me.

Airbus won’t say how much the fix will cost. But Airbus spokesman Clay McConnell insists the system’s working.

Clay McConnell: You know, we’d rather deal with the headline before it becomes a safety issue.

Nowadays, airlines inspectors can spot cracks with fancy equipment like ultrasonic scanners. But Airbus says these cracks were discovered by inspectors walking around inside the wing who spotted them with the naked eye.

I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

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