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Asia-pacific

Qantas, Singapore Airlines ground A380 flights after engine failure

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-11-05

Qantas and Singapore Airlines have grounded their fleets of A380 aircraft after “significant engine failure” caused an Airbus superjumbo operated by Qantas to make an emergency landing in Singapore on Thursday.

REUTERS - Qantas Airways and Singapore Airlines suspended flights of Airbus A380 superjumbos on Thursday after engine failure forced an emergency landing in Singapore.

One passenger reported hearing a "massive bang" before the aircraft turned back and Indonesian TV showed pictures of debris on the ground near Batam airport which it said belonged to the Qantas plane.
 
Authorities said none of the 459 people on board the Qantas flight was hurt in the most serious incident for the world's largest passenger plane in three years of commercial flight.
 
"THERE WAS A BANG, AND THEN ANOTHER BANG"
"This was a significant engine failure," Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce told reporters in Sydney. "We are not underestimating the significance of this issue."
 
Qantas A380s use Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines. Rolls-Royce, whose shares were down more than 5 percent, said it was working with authorities to understand the incident.
 
Planemaker Airbus said it will provide full technical assistance to Australian and French accident investigators.
 
One of the Airbus A380's four Rolls-Royce engines failed minutes after it had left Singapore for Sydney. Qantas CEO Joyce said the plane was capable of flying on two engines.
 
 Passengers said they saw parts of the engine fall off.
 
"I just heard this massive bang, like a shotgun going off," Tyler Wooster told Australia's Network Nine television. "Part of the skin had peeled off and you could see the foam underneath, pieces of broken wires sticking out." The flight had begun in London.
 
Qantas, which operates six A380s, said it was grounding the aircraft pending a full investigation. Three A380 flights scheduled for Thursday, one originating in Sydney and two in Los Angeles, have been scrapped.
 
"We will suspend all A380 takeoffs until we are fully confident we have sufficient information about (flight) QF32," Joyce told reporters.
 
Singapore Airlines said it will delay all flights on its A380 fleet pending precautionary checks recommended by Airbus and Rolls-Royce. It was not immediately clear how many flights would be affected or for how long.
 
Investigation
 
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau was leading the investigation into the incident, Joyce said. Passengers will stay in Singapore overnight and another plane will be dispatched for them on Friday morning.
 
Initial media reports said the plane had crashed after an explosion over the Indonesian island of Batam, near Singapore.
 
There have been no fatal incidents involving A380s since they were launched in 2005 as the greenest, quietest -- as well as the biggest -- jetliner. Shares in Airbus parent company EADS were down more than 4 percent by 1245 GMT. Qantas shares were little changed.
 
Emirates said it was not considering suspending flights as its engines are from a different supplier. European airlines Air France and Lufthansa said they would continue to use the aircraft as normal.
 
The plane involved in the incident was built in 2008.
 
More than 200 orders have been placed for the A380, and 37 are in operation worldwide, according to Airbus. The plane cost $17 billion to develop and has been dogged by production delays.
 
Qantas has never had a fatal accident. A mid-air explosion blew a minivan-size hole in the side of a Qantas 747-400 in 2008 which Australian air safety investigators blamed on an oxygen bottle.
 
One of the planes operated by Qantas burst two tyres this year when landing in Sydney, and in September 2009 an A380 was forced to turn around in mid-flight and return to Paris.
 
"This is probably the most serious incident involving the A380 since it began flying in commercial service," said aviation expert Tom Ballantyne, chief correspondent of Orient Aviation magazine. "There have been minor engine incidents before but nothing like this."
 
Singapore's Channel NewsAsia said the plane circled Singapore to burn fuel before making an emergency landing.
 
Former aircraft engineer Neil Shephard was on board.
 
"Four or five minutes after the flight (took off) there was a loud bang," he told Reuters. "The pilot said there was a technical issue with the plane and then we circled around for an hour to dump the fuel. During the landing, it was a bit wobbly."
 
Passengers were kept informed at all times, others who were on board said.
 
"It appears from the images of the plane that one of the engines has experienced a failure and it looks to be a fairly massive internal failure at that," said Peter Marosszeky at the University of New South Wales' aviation department.
 
"This failure has caused some of the engine ducting known as bypass ducting to depart from the engine. This type of incident has been seen previously but it was a long time ago and with much older planes than the A380."
 
A Reuters reporter said the plane was surrounded on the ground by emergency vehicles but there was no sign of any smoke or fire. One of the four nacelles -- structures that house the engines -- was missing and there appeared to be charring around that area of the plane.
 
Rusdi, a witness in Batam, told Indonesia's Metro TV: "After an explosion, the plane was still moving but smoke was trailing from one of its wings."
 
Indonesian volcano Mount Merapi has erupted several times in the past week, spewing ash into the sky, but is several hundred miles from the A380's flightpath.
 
Thursday's incident came just days before Qantas was due to celebrate its 90th anniversary with a special open day in Brisbane.
 
Photo courtesy of Flickr user express000 via the Creative Commons license.

 

Date created : 2010-11-04

  • AVIATION

    Qantas grounds Airbus A380s after engine failure

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