Friday, November 5, 2010

Qantas's Airbus Incident

Yesterday was the very first time a major incident involving a flagship of cutting-edge Airbus A380 since it entered service in 2007. It was a routine flight from Singapore to Sydney ferrying 433 passengers when something not routine forced the plane QF32 to dump fuel & re-route back to Singapore Changi Airport.

The engine 2 on the left was blown out 15 minutes after take-off & landed 1 hr 50 min after. Passengers & eye-witnesses reported that they heard explosion & saw metal shards & plane debris falling off the plane. The explosion tore a part of the left wing till wires & foam can be seen by passengers. Experts said the problem appeared to be an "uncontained engine failure," which occurs when turbine debris punctures the engine casing and the light cowling that covers the unit. On the ground, the stricken engine was obviously burned & the rear casing was missing.

However all 433 passengers & 26 crews are uninjured. The crews were very professional in the sense that they're calm when dealing with the situation. The captain came down & said:" Look, we're sorry. As you can gather, 1 of our engine won't turn off but now we're pouring water into it to stop it."

Qantas has immediately ground all 6 of its A380 fleet even though no airworthiness directive mandating a halt the flight of its A380s but Singapore has cleared all its 11 A380s to operate. Airbus, Roll-Royce and Singapore investigators are working round the clock to investigate the mishap. Meanwhile, British Engine maker Roll-Royce urged all operators to perform safety check (Precautionary Technical Check/All Operators Telex) on all its Trent 900 engines. Engine Alliance engines are not concerned.

"The fact that it survived the damage is a credit to the design. Twenty years ago that would probably have taken the aircraft out of the sky," said John Page, senior lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at the University of New South Wales. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce can't say exactly what caused the engine failure that prompted the emergency landing & said a thorough investigation is under way. He mentioned that it is most probably due to material failure or faulty design of the engine.

Still, the incident is likely to raise safety questions about one of the most modern aircraft, which has suffered a series of minor incidents.

In September 2009, a Singapore Airlines A380 was forced to turn around in mid-flight and head back to Paris after an engine malfunction. On March 31, a Qantas A380 with 244 people on board burst two tires on landing in Sydney after a flight from Singapore.

Last August, a Lufthansa crew shut down one of the engines as a precaution before landing at Frankfurt on a flight from Japan, after receiving confusing information on a cockpit indicator.

The other issues with the A380s have all been relatively minor, such as electrical problems, Ballantyne said.

Engine parts seemed to have damaged the wing & white fume are reported being seen during landing.

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