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Fri, Feb 17, 2006

A380 Wing Snaps Shy Of Stress Test Target

Airbus Expects "No Impact" On Cert, Deliveries

Is a 3.3 percent margin of error good enough? That is the question being asked after Airbus officials revealed Thursday an A380 wing failed during stress testing earlier this week.

Those questions aren't being asked -- at least publicly -- by those in Toulouse, however. Airbus maintains despite the unexpected structural failure, the company anticipates no delay in plans to bring the whalejet to market.

"It should have no impact on the certification and delivery," Airbus spokeswoman Barbara Kracht told the Associated Press, although she acknowledged the wing design may need "refinements at certain points" as a result of the failure.

One of those points will be the wing section between the two engine pylons, where the fracture occurred Tuesday during ground tests. At the time, the wing's tip was bent upward by over 24 feet at the tip, the result of having a load equivalent to 1.45 times the wing's rated limit load placed upon it. That is 3.3 percent short of the targeted load Airbus had anticipated.

New aircraft are required to resist loads of 1.5 times the limit, Kracht said.

Pending inquiries into the incident from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the FAA, Airbus engineers will determine if modifications are required to the aircraft's 262-foot wing.

"We will need to find out from the data what is really needed," Kracht added, "but it's certainly not a redesign of the wing."

Such a redesign would be potentially disastrous to the A380 program, which has already been hit by production and delivery delays stemming from a production-line shutdown last year.

As it stands, the A380 is scheduled to enter service with Singapore Airlines by the end of 2006.

FMI: www.airbus.com

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