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What happens next in the Qantas A380 incident?

Everything needed to explain today’s Qantas A380 drama at Singapore is either at Changi Airport or most likely secured on the nearby Indonesian island of Batam, where parts of the No 2 engine fell to earth after coming off the jet soon after it had taken off as QF32 for Sydney.

The jet returned to Singapore without reported injury to any of the 469 people on board. (Later revised by Qantas to 466 persons on board comprising 440 passengers and 26 crew.)

Qantas and the Singaporean, Indonesian and Australian air safety investigators have everything they are likely to need to determine the cause of the incident, which led to a few moments of media madness in which it was reported on some radio stations that the jet had crashed.

The ATSB has sent a team of four investigators to Singapore, due tomorrow morning, to lead an investigation with the assistance of the Singaporean and Indonesian safety authorities. The parties most involved in this are not just Qantas, Airbus and the air safety investigators, but Rolls-Royce the maker of the Trent 900 series engine that came undone, in a major way, for reasons yet to be determined.

The inquiry will access multi-channel data recordings which will throw considerable light on what all of the four Trent 900s were doing in the run up to No 2 failing, as well as what happened at that point and afterwards. It will no doubt interview the pilots as to what they experienced and how the giant airliner handled a dead engine situation in real life, and whether there were any issues inside the cabin for the cabin crew. That is not to suggest there were any issues. But incidents involving airliners are always studied for the insights they provide in terms of future in-flight incidents.

The inquiry will also access the maintenance records for this engine, and if it needs to, sift through them on a world wide basis, which in this case, means through the Singapore Airlines A380 records, as it also uses this engine on its giant Airbuses, to see if anything relevant comes up.

There was an airworthiness directive for Trent 900 engines issued by the European aviation regulator early in the year, which was implemented by the US Federal Aviation Administration in August as a matter of record keeping, since no American airlines use A380s with Trent 900 engines.

The ‘discussion’ part of the airworthiness directive is reproduced below.

Trent AD It is not known if it has any relevance to today’s incident, however the full document does note that unless repetitive inspections, and any necessary rectification works, are carried out the issue ‘could result in an uncontained failure of the engine, and damage to the airplane.’

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  • 1
    Angra
    Posted November 4, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Many of the news reports are still going with the Rainmaker myth that Qantas has never had a fatal accident. This is true of their jet era, but Qantas have had over 11 fatal accidents with over 70 deaths. Admittedly the last one was in 1951.

  • 2
    Angra
    Posted November 4, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Ben – why did it take an hour and a half to dump its fuel? Can’t you just open a valve or something and let it pour out? Or were they really just burning up fuel by flying?

  • 3
    Mark Parker
    Posted November 4, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Angra,
    Whilst Ben is best placed to comment on this, I suspect the time taken to dump fuel included (a) the pilots needed to get the plane into a safe area where they could then dump the fuel, (b) the sheer amount of fuel on board – the fuel system would allow for a rapid, but controlled release of fuel so that the plane can adjust itself as the fuel load exits the plane.

  • 4
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted November 4, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Turns out they had more than fuel on their minds, as outlined in most recent post.

    This was new territory for an A380, one engine jammed, one in pieces, part of hydraulics gone and with it the slats. And puncture marks near the fuel carrying part of the wing.

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