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Airbus to handle some A380 repairs after wing-spar cracking

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PARIS (Reuters) – Two years after the world’s largest jetliner rolled out of its Toulouse factory for the last time, Airbus is preparing to bring some A380 superjumbos back to their birthplace for wing inspections even as it re-dedicates the plant to smaller jets.

A380 production stopped in 2021 and part of the giant Jean-Luc Lagardere assembly hall has been redeployed as an assembly line for the single-aisle A321neo, to be inaugurated on Monday.

But elsewhere in the colossal plant, Airbus is preparing to welcome back some A380s from the largest customer, Emirates, for inspection and possible repairs after accelerated cracking was detected in some wing spars of jets stored during the pandemic.

Work on a dedicated “A380 Emirates” inspection facility in the building began in December and the project is due to run until third quarter 2024, according to Force Ouvriere union.

Airbus has agreed to pay special bonuses to workers on the project starting in September, backdated to the end of last year, it said in a notice giving the first detailed indication of the duration of the repair project.

“We are supporting inspections on some aircraft in Toulouse,” an Airbus spokesperson said.

Emirates, which has said the problem does not represent an immediate safety issue, said there would be minimal impact to its operations from the inspection and repair programme which is based on specified time limits since each wing was installed.

“We’re working closely with Airbus and our MRO (maintenance and repair) partners to fulfil the wings inspection and repair requirements for our A380s,” an airline spokesperson said.

“A large part of the work will be conducted at Emirates’ Engineering Centre and Airbus is providing us with supplementary MRO support in Toulouse.”

Ground time per jet will depend on findings and repairs, but is “estimated to average about 60 days,” the spokesperson added.

Emirates President Tim Clark told reporters last month that the first aircraft was being fixed and that the issue would have “very little impact on our operating profit”.

Opened in 2004, the Jean-Luc Lagardere site has been described as the world’s second-largest building by usable space and remains one of the few industrial plants tall enough for A380s. There is also a shortage of third-party repair capacity.

Both Airbus and Boeing are remodelling part of their largest and most iconic factory buildings as the industry’s focus switches from discontinued four-engined jumbo jets towards in-demand smaller models to accommodate changes in air travel.

Airbus data on Friday showed that total orders for the A321neo had topped 5,000 units to become its most-sold model.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher; editing by David Evans)

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