Singapore Airlines has resumed A380 flights following checks of the aircraft’s engines, despite the head of Qantas saying a design fault may be to blame for yesterday’s engine failure on one of the Australian carrier’s A380s.
The Qantas fleet of A380s remains grounded, though chief executive Alan Joyce expects services to resume ‘within days, not weeks’. Singapore Airlines said all its services using the aircraft were due to operate – although delays might occur.
Singapore uses the 480-seat A380 on two of its three daily services between Heathrow and Singapore, with departures from London scheduled at 10:55 and 22:05.
One of the four engines on a Qantas A380 failed six minutes after takeoff from Singapore’s Changi airport yesterday, hurling debris through the wing of the aircraft. The 440 passengers and 26 crew landed safely after the pilot spent two hours jettisoning fuel.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said it was too early to determine the cause of the blowout but appeared to rule out a maintenance problem, saying: “We believe this is most likely some kind of material failure or a design issue.”
The spotlight is on the aircraft’s Rolls Royce engines. The European Aviation Safety Agency issued a warning in August about unusual wear inside the engines, although there is no evidence yet of a connection.
Previous incidents of this type have occurred on much older aircraft. If the engine was at fault, investigators will be keen to determine whether it was due to a specific problem with a single engine or a general design fault.
The world’s largest aircraft, the Airbus A380 has only been in service since 2007. Wear and tear should not be an issue on such a new aircraft, and engines on long-haul aircraft suffer less strain than on short-haul due to the fewer number of take-offs.
Only five airlines operate the aircraft at present, with only 37 A380s in service, and two of these carriers – Emirates and Air France – have fleets fitted with US-made engines. The UK-manufactured Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines are fitted on the six Qantas A380s, Singapore Airlines’ fleet of 11 and Lufthansa’s three.
German carrier Lufthansa has only one A380 making daily flights and said it had carried out checks without suspending services. Rolls Royce recommended “a number of basic precautionary checks”.