Qantas’s Airbus A380 fleet remains grounded a week after an uncontained engine failure forced one of the aircraft to make an emergency landing in Singapore.
The incident took place on 4 November, when Qantas flight QF32 suffered an engine failure shortly after take-off from Singapore en route to Sydney. Passengers said they heard an explosion, while amateur video footage showed the airliner trailing smoke from its left wing.
On landing, the aircraft was found to be missing the cowling from one of its engines. Debris from the Trent 900 was found on the ground.
Qantas, which prides itself on its record of zero crashes, announced the suspension of A380 services in the wake of the incident.
“We are suspending all A380 flights until we have sufficient information, until we are completely confident that all Qantas safety standards are met,” Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said.
Qantas took delivery of the aircraft involved, registered as VH-OQA, in September 2008. The airline currently has six A380s in service and 14 more on order.
A day after the incident, Airbus said it had “issued an All Operators Telex asking A380 operators with Rolls-Royce engines for powerplant inspections to ensure continuous safe operations of the fleet”.
“The document supports the requirements issued previously by engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce. Operators with Engine Alliance engines are not concerned,” the aircraft manufacturer said. “In line with the ICAO Annex 13 international convention, Airbus will provide full technical assistance to the French BEA as well as to the Australian authorities who will be responsible for the investigation. A team of specialists from Airbus has arrived in Singapore.”
In a statement on 8 November, engine maker Rolls-Royce said: “It is now clear that the incident is specific to the Trent 900 engine.”
“As a result, a series of checks and inspections has been agreed with Airbus, with operators of the Trent 900-powered A380 and with the airworthiness authorities,” the company said. “These are being progressively completed, which is allowing a resumption of operation of aircraft in full compliance with all safety standards.”
The manufacturer pointed out that the in-flight failure was the first incident of its kind to occur on a large, civil Rolls-Royce engine since 1994. Since then, Trent and RB211 engines have accumulated a combined 142 million hours of flight.
“We will provide a further update with our interim management statement on 12 November 2010,” the company said.
Singapore Airlines said on 8 November that it had completed inspection of the engines on its entire A380 fleet and did not find any issues of concern. The same day, Qantas said it would keep its fleet grounded for at least another 72 hours, after finding problems on three more engines.