The first Airbus A380 delivered takes off from Toulouse-Blagnac airport (Reuters)
Airbus A380 superjumbo (Reuters)

Aircraft-maker Airbus has been ordered to ground and check the wings of every A380 superjumbo in service - less than six months after the flagship passenger jet started operations for some of the world's biggest airlines.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) ordered the grounding of all 68 aircraft in service after engineers for Qantas Airways, Australia's largest carrier, found 36 cracks in the wing of an A380 that had gone through severe turbulence.

An airworthiness directive was issued in January calling for a detailed visual inspection of the aircraft's "wing rib feet" - the internal metal brackets that connect the wing's ribs to its skin.

The aircraft agency directed operators to check all superjumbos that had recorded more than 1,300 takeoffs and landings. The ruling, applied to 20 A380 aircraft in operation, resulted in Quantas discovering that one of its Airbus A380 passenger jets had cracks in its key wing components.

The aircraft had hit severe turbulence on a flight from London to Singapore but Qantas said the cracks were not related to the turbulence but to "manufacturing issues".

The latest order has extended the checks to the entire operational fleet of 68 A380 Airbus jets around the world.

EASA spokesman Dominique Fouda said the agency was working with Airbus on a long-term fix that should be ready by the summer.