Etihad Airways has returned a second Airbus A380 to its active fleet, with the double-decker jet now flying to one of London’s busiest airports.
The superjumbo, registered A6-API, departed for its first flight to London-Heathrow Airport (LHR) at 2:27 am local time (UTC +4) on July 27, 2023, and arrived the same day on Etihad Airways flight EY11 at 6:34 am local time (UTC +1). The aircraft is the second A380 to be returned to service by the airline since it grounded the type in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On its return journey to Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) on flight EY12, the aircraft took off from LHR at 10:27 am local time (UTC +1), arriving at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital at 7:41 pm local time (UTC +4).
On August 1, 2023, Etihad Airways scheduled A6-API to fly the EY19 and EY20 itineraries, meaning that the Airbus A380 departed AUH several hours later compared to EY11 and will return to the airline’s hub airport in UAE in the early hours of August 2, 2023.
Meanwhile, the carrier’s other active Airbus A380, registered as A6-APG, has been operating flight EY11 from AUH to LHR and the return journey, EY12, since Etihad Airways officially resumed service with the A380 on July 25, 2023.
The only exception was July 27, 2023, when A6-APG returned to AUH on flight EY18.
Etihad Airways A380 technical problem
However, the return of the type was soured when A6-APG encountered a technical problem, temporarily removing the aircraft from active service.
After returning to AUH on July 27, 2023, on the following day, the A380 completed eight test flights that lasted no longer than 30 minutes, according to flightradar24.com data.
It was not immediately clear why the aircraft was pulled out of service and underwent several test flights before returning to the AUH-LHR route on July 29, 2023. Notably, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is the state design authority, issued two recent Airworthiness Directives (AD) related to potential issues stemming from long-term storage.
In May 2023, one AD warned that certain wing spar areas of the A380 could crack faster than expected if the aircraft is stored in “severe environmental conditions”. As such, EASA revised the inspection times to include Factored time on ground (FTOG).
A month later, another AD issued by EASA stated that “during a regular walk-around inspection of a stored A380 aeroplane”, the left-hand body landing gear (BLG) rear axle had ruptured. The agency told airlines that before returning A380s to service they would need to replace the affected BLG rear axles “with a serviceable part”.
Meanwhile, two other A380s owned by Etihad Airways, registered as A6-APJ and A6-APH, have been inactive since July 11 and June 21, respectively.
AeroTime approached Etihad Airways for comment.