After ending its production in 2021, Airbus is preparing to bring back the majestic A380 to its plant in Toulouse for wing inspections and potential repairs after the aircraft's largest customer, Emirates, reported accelerated wing-spar cracking in some of its superjumbos that had been stored during the pandemic.

Airbus' Toulouse plant welcomes back the A380 for inspection

It has been two years since Airbus saw the last A380 leaving Toulouse's Jean-Luc Lagardere assembly hall. However, the European manufacturer announced it is bringing back some of the 251 A380s it has produced and delivered to assess the status of their wings after the aircraft's largest customer, Emirates, reported accelerated wing-spar craking.

Although a relevant part of Airbus' Jean-Luc Lagardere plant has been reorganized to become the assembly line for the single-aisle Airbus A321neo, Airbus has chosen the A380's birthplace to carry out the wing inspections. Indeed, this plant is considered the worldwide second-largest plant by usable space and one of the few whose dimensions make working on the gigantic jet possible.

Emirates A380 in plant
Photo: Skycolors | Shutterstock

The intervention became necessary after Emirates detected unusual cracking in the wing spars of some of the superjumbos that the Middle Eastern carrier grounded during the pandemic. Inspection works on an ad-hoc "A380 Emirates" inspection facility first began in December 2022, and the project is expected to run until the third quarter of 2024.

Will inspection works on Emirates' A380s impact the carrier's operations?

According to the Emirati carrier, the witnessed accelerated wing-spar cracking does not represent an immediate safety issue.

Consequently, the airline stated the inspection and repair project on some of its Airbus A380s should not threaten Emirates' operations throughout the project. Furthermore, Emirates specified that the duration of each wing inspection is based on already-specified time limits depending on when the wing was installed.

Emirates Airbus A380-861 (1)
Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying 

According to an airline spokesperson, Emirates is working closely with both Airbus and its Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) partners to carry out the inspection work and potential repairs as efficiently as possible. The carrier also specified that a relevant part of the inspection will occur at Emirates' Engineering Center, while Airbus will provide additional MRO support in Toulouse.

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The grounding of each aircraft during the inspection will vary according to the results of the assessments. However, Emirates and Airbus estimate that a minimum grounding time of 60 days per aircraft will be required in order to assess and possibly, fix the wing damage properly.

Emirates' reliance on the Airbus A380

Although Emirates is confident the inspection works on the wings of some of its Airbus A380s will not cause significant disruptions to the airline's operations, this aircraft does represent the backbone of the carrier's fleet and, thus, capacity.

According to ch-aviation, Emirates currently operates a fleet of 119 Airbus A380s. However, of these, just 88 are active, while the other 33 remain out of service. The Boeing 777-300ER is the second-largest component of the Middle Eastern carrier's fleet, with 124 examples, with just five currently out of service.

A6-EGH Emirates Boeing 777-31H(ER) (1)
Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

However, the airline is also preparing for a significant fleet modernization, with 50 A350-900s, 126 Boeing 777Xs, and 30 787-9s waiting to join the fleet in the coming years.

Do you think Airbus and Emirates will manage to carry out the inspection works on time to avoid any disruptions to the carrier's operations? Let us know by clicking on the comment button below!

  • rsz_airbus_50th_years_anniversary_formation_flight_-_air_to_air
    Stock Code:
    Business Type:
    Date Founded:
    Guillaume Faury
    Headquarters Location:
    Toulouse, France
    Key Product Lines:
    Airbus A220, Airbus A320, Airbus A330, Airbus A340, Airbus A350, Airbus A380