Wing crack probe played no role in Lufthansa's A380 pullback in Miami, airline says
By Scott Blake
German carrier Lufthansa says its decision to stop flying the Airbus 380 super-jumbo jetliner into Miami next month had nothing to do with wing cracks that have been found on some of the planes.
"Lufthansa has been in close contact with Airbus and has been informed by the manufacturer that some A380 aircraft show minor, very small cracks in uncritical parts of the wing," Lufthansa spokeswoman Christina Semmel told Miami Today.
"This had nothing whatsoever to do with the Miami flight route," she added.
Lufthansa has said it will stop flying the A380 — the world's largest passenger plane — for flights between Frankfurt, Germany, and Miami on March 25, and switch to the smaller Boeing 747 for those flights. The airline said the decision was "merely due to seasonal changes" in passenger traffic and flight plans.
In June, Lufthansa started the A380 flights to and from Miami with a welcome that featured spraying water cannons, cheering crowds and other fanfare for the giant double-deck plane — several stories high and longer than a football field.
This month, however, the European Aviation Safety Agency, EASA, ordered inspections of the entire fleet of 68 super-size aircraft. The order called for all seven airlines that fly the A380, including Lufthansa, to inspect the planes within six weeks.
That followed a previous order by EASA, which regulates European carriers, that only called for inspections of about a third of the worldwide A380 fleet.
Meanwhile, Lufthansa so far has continued to use the A380 for the Frankfurt-Miami flights, Miami-Dade Aviation Director Jose Abreu said Tuesday.
Several weeks ago, Lufthansa said its A380s were not among those to be inspected under EASA's original order.
"So far, Lufthansa did not find these cracks on any of its A380 aircraft," Ms. Semmel said at the time. "The mentioned serial numbers [for the inspections] do not belong to any Lufthansa A380."
Asked Tuesday whether the situation has since changed, Ms. Semmel said all eight of Lufthansa's A380s will be inspected under the latest EASA order, and added that still no cracks have been found so far on the airline's A380s.
"Safety is Lufthansa's top priority. We take the new EASA directive very seriously," she said in a statement. "Accordingly, we don't anticipate cancellations of A380 flights due to the required inspections."
Lufthansa received its first A380 in May 2010, she said.
In January, Miami International Airport officials learned of Lufthansa's decision to pull the 526-passenger A380 from the Miami flights and replace it with the 352-passenger Boeing 747.
Since late last year, tiny cracks have been found in L-shaped brackets that connect the aluminum covering of the A380's giant wings to its structural ribs.
Airbus, the European-based maker of the A380, has maintained that the tiny wing cracks pose no imminent safety risk and has maintained the problems are minor. The company reportedly has said that it has traced the problem to a manufacturing process that has since been changed.
Still, the problem threatens to become a public relations setback, if not an operational one, for the A380.
Airbus launched the mammoth jet for commercial flights in October 2007 in part to break the dominance that US-based Boeing — its chief rival — had held on the jumbo jetliner market since the 1970s with its 747.
While major airlines in Europe, Asia, and Australia have made the A380 a staple of their fleets, major US carriers have yet to adopt the plane.
Boeing, meanwhile, has responded to the A380 with the development of the 787 "Dreamliner." Yet Boeing, too, has said it is working to eliminate minor defects with the aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates US carriers, has said there is no immediately safety issue with the 787, and it is working with Boeing on corrective action.
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