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Nov 4, 2010

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


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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