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Airbus to ask airlines to check wings of older A380s for cracks

PARIS, France – European aircraft maker Airbus will ask airlines operating 25 of its oldest A380 super-jumbo jets to inspect their wings after cracks were found in some models, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said.

The EASA said in an airworthiness directive dated Friday, July 5, that "occurrences have been reported of finding cracks" in certain parts of the wing on in-service A380 airplanes.

"This condition, if not detected and corrected, could reduce the structural integrity of the wing," the EASA said.

"To address this potential unsafe condition, Airbus plans to issue the SB (service bulletin) to provide inspection instructions."

The directive does not yet ground any aircraft for the moment.

The French daily Les Echos reported that the EASA, which is based in Germany, advised ultrasonic testing on 25 of the 234 A380 aircraft in operation, notably those built more than 15 years ago. 

"This airworthiness directive is considered an interim action, limited to the 25 oldest wing sets," the EASA said.

"Based on inspection findings, further AD action may follow to address additional in-service airplanes."

It is not the first time that the A380, the world's biggest passenger aircraft, has experienced such problems.

A wing-crack debacle in 2012 cost Airbus millions of euros in repair and service costs. 

In an emailed statement, Airbus said that "airworthiness directives are standard in aviation and demonstrate the regulatory process working well. Aviation is one of the most regulated of any sectors. Safety is the top priority in aviation."

Airbus announced in February that it would stop building the A380, a double-decker jet which earned plaudits from passengers but failed to win over enough airlines to justify its massive costs.

US planemaker Boeing is still reeling from the grounding of its 737 MAX whose automatic flight handling software was seen as a factor in two crashes involving Ethiopian Airlines and Indonesia's Lion Air. (READ: Saudi carrier Flyadeal ditches grounded Boeing MAX for Airbus– Rappler.com