Qantas A380s Back in the Air

 - November 29, 2010, 6:52 AM
The European Aviation Safety Agency issued a revised emergency airworthiness directive covering Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines just days before Australian flag carrier Qantas was due to resume flights with its Rolls-powered A380s. (Copyright Airbus)

Qantas resumed flying two of its six A380s on November 26, after replacing some of their Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines. In total, Rolls must bear the cost of replacing some 40 Trent 900s from the 20-strong fleet of Rolls-powered, four-engine A380s.

Meanwhile, on November 23, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued a new emergency Airworthiness Directive, replacing an earlier emergency AD issued on November 10–six days after the uncontained failure of a Trent 900 caused extensive damage to the wing of a Qantas A380, forcing an emergency landing in Singapore. According to the EASA, fresh analysis of engine inspection data prompted the move to amend the required inspection procedure. The new AD retains the first directive’s mandate to inspect the Trent 900’s air buffer cavity, but it now instructs operators to focus also on the oil service tubes within the high pressure/intermediate pressure structure of the engine. It still requires operators to carry out initial inspections within 10 flight cycles of November 10 and at repeated intervals of no more than 20 cycles. The new AD omits the earlier directive’s requirement for inspecting the engines’ low-pressure turbine stage-one blades and case drain.

As the industry awaits the December 3 publication of a preliminary factual report from the Australian Transportation Safety Board, the Internet and general media have been awash with unconfirmed reports about how the accident unfolded. However, information disclosed by Australian officials does make it clear that shrapnel from the failed engine punctured fuel tanks and caused extensive damage to the A380’s hydraulic, mechanical and electrical systems. As a result, the pilots could not pump fuel out of the rear tank, potentially creating a c.g. imbalance as they attempted to land the A380 at Singapore Changi International Airport.

Rolls-Royce has made no statement on the investigation since November 12.