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First A380 grounded amid safety concerns

(Global Times)

13:24, October 31, 2011

Photo: Xinhua

No date has been set for China's first A380 superjumbo jet, belonging to China Southern Airlines Co, to return to normal service after it was grounded Saturday due to mechanical failure, only 12 days after coming into service.

"It is uncertain whether it can return to normal operation on Monday," Zou Yingping, working at the company's Party committee, told the Global Times Sunday, adding that any information concerning the plane would be updated on its official Weibo account.

The plane was scheduled to fly from Beijing to Shanghai Saturday, but the flight was called off due to a problem with the flap driving system on the wings. The spare parts were flown into Beijing Sunday morning.

"We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience caused to passengers," the statement said. "The safety of passengers is always our top priority."

The airline used an A330 jet to make the flight instead. Flights from Beijing to Guangzhou were being flown with A330s as well.

"The A380 will bring more passengers to China Southern Airline Co as it has done so consistently since it entered the marketplace," said Li Lei, an industry analyst from CITIC China Securities.

"Failures are unavoidable for airplanes in their initial periods. However, grounding the aircraft may affect China Southern Airlines, but also Airbus, as consumers may be concerned about the safety of the A380," Li noted.

Such failures are to be expected, Zhou Jisheng, who helped design the Chinese-made ARJ21 airplane, told the Oriental Morning Post Sunday.

"New models always see failures in their initial stages as this serves as a testing process for various systems and parts of the plane," Zhou said, adding that the period lasts for one-tenth of the plane's service life.

"The number of failures that occurred in the operation of the A380 globally is in the standard range," Zhou said.

There have been five instances of technical failure on the A380 since it entered service in 2007.

The Guangzhou-based airline is the first operator in China to buy the A380, the world's largest airplane. The plane flew the Beijing-Guangzhou route at first and was due to switch to Beijing-Shanghai.

China Southern Airlines has ordered five A380 jets from Airbus, with the second to be delivered in December.

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