Tags: Airbus | Rolls | Begin | Qantas | A380 | Engine | Blowout

Airbus, Rolls Begin Qantas A380 Engine-Blowout Probe

Thursday, 04 November 2010 09:09 AM

Airbus SAS and Rolls-Royce Group Plc began investigating why an engine on a Qantas Airways Ltd. A380 superjumbo exploded in mid flight, forcing an emergency landing in the worst incident since the aircraft began service in 2007.

Investigators from France’s BEA aviation safety authority and the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch will join the probe, which is being led by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The plane, carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew, landed safely in Singapore today after one of its four Rolls Trent 900 engines blew up, scattering debris over an Indonesian island.

“The engine manufacturer is where we should look,” Howard Wheeldon, senior strategist at BGC Partners in London, said in an interview with Francine Lacqua on Bloomberg Television’s “On The Move.” “Rolls have to step up to the plate and ensure that all procedures were carried out correctly. The manufacturer of the aircraft will be very concerned.”

The incident prompted Qantas to ground its fleet of six A380 jets until the cause of the malfunction has been determined. This is the second failure in three months Qantas has sustained with Rolls-Royce engines. On Sept. 1, the carrier said a Boeing Co. 747 bound for Sydney returned to San Francisco after an engine failed and was shut off soon after take-off.

Shares Falling

European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co., the parent of Airbus, fell as much as 4.3 percent in Paris trading, the most since Aug. 27. Rolls-Royce fell as much as 5.3 percent in London, the most since April 20.

The planes will be out of service for “as long as it takes,” Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said at a press briefing in Sydney broadcast on Australian television.

Qantas, which has never encountered a fatal jet accident, stopped two flights leaving Los Angeles and one in Sydney, and passengers will stay at the departure points until replacement planes can be arranged, Qantas spokeswoman Emma Kearns said by phone from Sydney.

Qantas A380s fly daily services to Los Angeles from Sydney and three times a week from Melbourne. The aircraft also carry out twice-a-week services from Melbourne to London, and goes five times a week between Sydney and London. The London flights all have stopovers in Singapore.

Singapore Air, Lufthansa

Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Deutsche Lufthansa AG are the only other carriers with superjumbos powered by the same Trent 900 engines. Singapore Air, the first carrier to fly the A380 and which has 11 planes in service, said in an e-mailed statement that it would delay all flights operated on the aircraft following advice from Rolls-Royce and Airbus to conduct precautionary technical checks.

Cologne, Germany-based Lufthansa is operating its four A380s as normal, spokesman Boris Ogursky said by telephone.

Air France, which operates four Engine Alliance-powered A380s, had no immediate comment, spokesman Jean-Charles Trehan said. Emirates Airline, the biggest A380 customer, said it would keep its 13 planes flying. It also uses turbines from Engine Alliance, a venture between General Electric Co. and United Technology Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney.

“For Emirates it’s business as usual,” President Tim Clark said by telephone. “Our A380s are powered by Alliance engines, so we’re not concerned. It’s not an issue that we’re looking into.”


A Sydney-based official for Rolls Royce said the company will investigate the incident and cooperate with Toulouse, France-based Airbus, Qantas and authorities. Airbus has no information yet on what caused the incident, spokesman Sean Lee said by phone from Singapore. The planemaker has sold a total of 234 A380s, according to data on its website.

Qantas “might be being cautious but you have to be when it comes to these things,” said Ronald Bishop, a senior lecturer in aviation at Central Queensland University in Australia and a former flight engineer in the U.S. Air Force for more than 20 years. “There is a reason why an engine had a catastrophic failure, and they will need time to work out why.”

While the incident on the Qantas flight is the gravest to date on the world’s largest passenger plane, it is not the first to hobble carriers. Two tires burst on landing by an A380 at Sydney airport on May 31. Emirates had to delay a South Korea to Dubai flight in January after fuel system glitches.

Any incidents on an A380 draw more publicity than on other jets because airlines tout the double-decker plane as their flagship model. There are five carriers operating the A380 to date, with 38 in service. Korean Air Lines Co. and China Southern Airlines Co. will take delivery of their first A380s next year.

Opting for Rolls

The majority of A380s in operation today use Rolls-Royce engines. GE, the world’s largest maker of aircraft engines, created the alliance with Pratt specifically for the A380 aircraft. Like the Boeing 747 and the Airbus A340 wide-body aircraft, the A380 runs on four engines and is capable of landing safely even if some power plants malfunction.

In August, London-based Rolls-Royce closed a test site after damage caused by the uncontained failure of a Trent 1000 engine, which powers Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner model and forced an additional delay to the introduction to Boeing’s latest jet.

The Qantas A380 landed in Singapore at about 11:45 a.m. with an engine that had scorch marks and part of its cover blown off. Indonesia’s Metro TV showed images from Batam Island of plane pieces, some requiring two people to carry.

‘Loud Bang’

The debris will be collected to help with the investigation, Transport Minister Freddy Numberi said today in Jakarta. Passengers and crew will stay overnight in Singapore before being placed on a Boeing 747 flight to Sydney tomorrow. The airline is organizing hotels for those affected.

“I was on the plane right next to engine two, which exploded with a loud bang,” passenger Lars Sandberg told the British Broadcasting Corp. “I thought that something had fallen down in cargo underneath the plane, but the plane started shaking. I travel a lot and this is the first big scare I’ve had.”

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Airbus SAS and Rolls-Royce Group Plc began investigating why an engine on a Qantas Airways Ltd. A380 superjumbo exploded in mid flight, forcing an emergency landing in the worst incident since the aircraft began service in 2007. Investigators from France s BEA aviation...
Thursday, 04 November 2010 09:09 AM
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