Qantas chief Alan Joyce said on Friday that initial reports indicate that a material failure or "design issue" with Airbus A380 engines could have been what caused one to explode on flight QF32 on Thursday, necessitating an emergency landing.
AFP - Qantas said Friday an engine design fault may have caused a dramatic mid-air emergency involving a flagship Airbus A380 superjumbo, raising possible questions over the giant long-haul craft.
Chief executive Alan Joyce said early signs pointed to a "material failure or a design issue" in the Rolls-Royce engines after one exploded just minutes into flight QF32 from Singapore to Sydney, prompting an emergency landing.
"THERE WAS A BANG, AND THEN ANOTHER BANG"
However, Joyce said Qantas' five other A380s -- the world's biggest passenger jet -- could be back in action within days, after safety checks by Rolls-Royce and Qantas engineers in Los Angeles and Sydney.
"This is an engine issue and the engines were maintained by Rolls-Royce since being installed on the aircraft," Joyce told reporters in Sydney.
"We believe that this is most likely some kind of material failure or a design issue... we don't believe this is related to maintenance in any way."
Joyce's comments are the clearest insight yet into Thursday's events, when the blast rained engine casing down on an Indonesian town and the superjumbo, carrying 466 people, returned to Singapore after dumping fuel.
He said that a second engine, next to the one that exploded, would not shut down after the landing, raising further concerns.
The hair-raising incident has thrown the A380 -- the mammoth double-decker aircraft vying with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner in the long-haul sector -- into the safety spotlight three years after it took to the skies.
Since its 2007 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. Joyce said tyres also burst during Thursday's incident, but described that as "not significant".
European manufacturer Airbus said it is sending a team to Singapore and will cooperate fully with a probe launched by Australian and French investigators. Australian officials Friday said the probe could take up to a year.
Qantas, which has never had a fatal jetliner crash in 90 years, said the A380 was the first it received in 2008 and recently had a major maintenance check. Airbus said it had completed 831 trips over about 8,165 flight hours.
Rolls-Royce urged airlines to carry out "basic precautionary checks" on its Trent 900 engines after the incident. Some 37 A380s are currently in use around the world.
Singapore Airlines (SIA), the first airline to operate the world's largest passenger jet in 2007, said it resumed A380 flights "following precautionary checks".
Qantas said flights between Australia and Los Angeles and Australia and London had been affected by the A380s' grounding, delaying about 1,200 passengers who will have to wait about 24 hours for replacement planes.
Passengers on the stricken airliner told of hearing a loud "bang" after take-off as the left-side engine blew, damaging the wing above.
"All of a sudden I heard a big bang, like a big gunshot bang, like a really loud gun," Tyler Wooster, 16, told Australian public broadcaster ABC.
Joyce and the passengers had glowing praise for unflappable captain Richard Champion de Crespigny, 53, who calmly guided the damaged plane to safety as he reassured passengers over the intercom.
"The pilot and the crew handled this superbly," Joyce said, as one passenger called him "fantastic".
Passengers on the aborted flight resumed their journey to Sydney on Friday after an overnight stay in Singapore.
As well as the 37 A380s now flying commercially, another 234 are on order from airlines, according to Airbus -- whose US arch-rival Boeing will launch the smaller 787 Dreamliner next year.
Shares in Qantas fell 1.04 percent to 2.86 Australian dollars in Friday trade.
Date created : 2010-11-05