A Qantas Airways Airbus A380, the “Nancy-Bird Walton” (VH-OQA), flight QF32, on a trip from Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) to Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD) in Sydney, Australia with 459 people aboard lost power on one of its four engines shortly after taking off, and was forced to make an emergency return landing in Singapore, showering debris onto houses and a shopping mall below the flight path, some of which fell in neighboring Indonesia. The incident happened on Thursday, November 4 at 9:51 a.m. local time.
The Australian carrier, whom many regard as the World’s Safest Airline, according to AirSafe.com, because it has never suffered a fatal accident, came very close to an encounter with disaster, as the engine cover cowling and parts of the engine itself, on one of its Rolls Royce RB211 Trent 900 engines, specifically designed for the Airbus A380, disintegrated during flight.
Passengers reported hearing a “massive bang” or a “loud boom”, and one described the incident as “the scariest thing I had seen”. Qantas called the incident a “significant engine failure”.
When asked by news media about how long the Airbus A380 will be sidelined, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, replied “As long as it takes. We are being very cautious until we know exactly what caused this to happen.”
Joining Mr. Joyce in their own caution, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued a warning last August over excessive wear in the Rolls-Royce engines used on the Qantas Airways Airbus A380, and similar equipment operated by other carriers. The August 4 directive also warned that problems with the engine could “result in loss of engine performance with potential for in-flight shut down.”
The name Qantas is an acronym for “Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services”, started on November 16, 1920, making it the world’s second oldest continuously operating airline. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, which was founded on October 7, 1919, is considered to be the oldest carrier.
This is not the first incident involving one of these engines. Similar mishaps have occurred to other Airbus A380 aircraft operated by Singapore Airlines (SQ), which owns eleven A380s, and Lufthansa (LH) which operates three A380s aircraft, with 12 more on order. Qantas is the third carrier to encounter such a power plant problem, and calls into question the reliability and safety of this model Rolls Royce engine.
Australia, which is known as the “Lucky Land”, may have rubbed off some of that good fortune on Qantas, its national airline, which has flirted before with disaster. Three Qantas Boeing aircraft were forced to make emergency landings in 2008 when the planes developed large holes in their fuselage, one as big as 10 feet in length.
The Airbus A380, the world’s largest commercial aircraft, is meant to replace the much older Boeing 747. It’s a super jumbo twin deck plane capable of carrying over 500 passengers. Qantas owns six of them. A fatal accident with a full plane would be catastrophic.
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