Qantas grounds A380s after Singapore air drama

Last Updated: Friday, November 5, 2010 - 00:03

Singapore: Australia`s Qantas Airways grounded all its Airbus A380s Thursday after an engine failure forced one of the superjumbos to make a dramatic emergency landing in Singapore with more than 450 people aboard.

The explosion in one of the four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, which showered metal debris on to an Indonesian city, was the double-deck A380`s first mid-air emergency.
Qantas, which has never suffered a fatal jet crash in its 90-year history, said it was grounding all six of its A380s and other airlines said they were making checks on their aircraft on the recommendation of Rolls-Royce.

Qantas said flight QF32 developed major engine trouble just six minutes into a flight from Singapore to Sydney, and dumped fuel over Indonesia before returning to Singapore`s Changi Airport.

There were no injuries to the 433 passengers or the 26 crew on board the Qantas jet, officials said.

But debris from the left inner engine fell on areas of the Indonesian city of Batam, on an island just south of Singapore, damaging houses but causing no casualties.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the plane had experienced "a significant engine failure".

"We will suspend those A380 services until we are completely confident that Qantas safety requirements have been met," Joyce told reporters in Sydney.

Airbus, which is betting its future on the commercial viability of the huge plane, said the Qantas incident had been "significant" but stressed the A380 was safe to fly on three engines.

"We are not playing down the incident but it is covered in the certification procedures," a spokesman for the French-based company said, as France`s air accident investigation agency launched a probe.

The superjumbo involved had been in service since September 2008 and had logged 8,165 flight hours, the manufacturer said.

Several hours after the incident Rolls-Royce recommended that "basic precautionary checks" be carried out on the Trent 900 engines powering some A380 models.

"In situations like these Rolls-Royce has well-established processes to collect and understand information relating to the event and to determine suitable actions."
It added: "As always the safe operation of our products is our number one priority."

Singapore Airlines (SIA) said it was delaying some flights while the checks were carried out, while Lufthansa said it could perform the checks without affecting schedules.

Air France and Emirates use different engines on their A380s.

Relieved passengers recounted the mid-air drama to reporters.

German passenger Ulf Waschbusch said there was a loud boom and flames on the plane`s left wing soon after take-off.

"Everyone was surprisingly calm on the plane. We are not going crazy at all," he said.

Six fire engines swarmed the jet on landing, spraying liquid on it, according to an AFP reporter at the Singapore airport. The damaged engine was blackened and its rear cowling was missing.

"There was quite a loud bang. We just sat right where it happened," Australian Claire Quinn told reporters before boarding a bus.

"We could see all the damage on the wing. We were all pretty much scared stiff."

Hours after the incident Airbus received a boost as China Southern Airlines said it would buy 36 aircraft from the company for 3.78 billion US dollars, albeit different models to the A380.

Qantas shares had been up 10 cents at 2.97 Australian dollars before falling to 2.82 dollars on erroneous reports that one of its jets had crashed. The stock ended the day up two cents at 2.89 dollars.

Rolls-Royce shares slumped 4.75 percent to 622 pence in afternoon London trading on the benchmark FTSE 100 index of leading shares, which was up 1.99 percent.

After 18 months of production delays, the A380`s first commercial flight, operated by SIA, was on the same Singapore-Sydney route in October 2007.

Since the launch, fuel and computer glitches have grounded several A380s and one Air France flight was forced back to New York after problems with its navigation system in November 2009.
In April, a Qantas A380 damaged tyres on landing from Singapore in Sydney, causing a shower of sparks.

A total of 37 A380s are now flying commercially. Another 234 are on order from airlines, according to Airbus, whose US arch-rival Boeing is banking on the smaller 787 Dreamliner as the future of long-haul air travel.

Bureau Report



First Published: Friday, November 5, 2010 - 00:03

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