Dec 2, 2010

New safety defect found in Qantas A380 engines

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking


Even before it has completed its first flight from London to Sydney since the fleet was grounded, a Qantas A380 is the subject of a new safety alert by the ATSB.

The giant jet, also designated QF32, is currently between Singapore and Sydney on the final leg of the first Rolls-Royce powered A380 service Qantas has operated since it grounded the fleet on November 4, hours after its first ever A380, Nancy-Bird Walton, also operating QF32, suffered a violent disintegration of its No2 engine after leaving Singapore.

The incident caused major problems with the A380, including multiple punctures of the wing, fuel tanks and fuel lines and control cabling. It lost half of its hydraulics and was unable to shut down the No1 engine after it landed back in Singapore, requiring the use of water cannons to drown it.

The ATSB has identified a drilling defect with the potential to cause the Rolls-Royce engine to catch fire and disintegrate, and has issued a critical safety recommendation.

ATSB recent 01ATSB recent 02

CASA has issued this statement.

CASAFor those into nuances, here is the Qantas statement, which anticipates no disruption to other A380 services, but makes it clear the safety first imperative is paramount, and that contingency plans have been drawn up should this drilling anomaly be found in other engines.

QantasA spokesman for Qantas said their were currently three builds or versions of the Trent 900, A, B and C. The incident on November 4 was in an A build engine, and all such builds have been removed from the Qantas fleet.

The engines on the A380 now into its final hours of the flight from Singapore to Sydney are version B power plants. The spokesman also said that the three brand new A380s to be delivered to Qantas soon, two this month and one in the New Year, are currently powered with B and C build engines.

“Qantas doesn’t know if the (drilling issue) found on the engine on the aircraft involved on November 4 is a one off defect or a systemic problem,” he said. ” But we will find out. The inspections we are doing on all of the engines use a new 3D borescope different to the borescope used in the inspections specified in the EASA emergency airworthiness directive. There are only three of these 3D borescopes in the world and we have one of them.”

The ATSB will tomorrow morning Australian time release a detailed interim report into the November 4 incident.

Update: Qantas files claim on Rolls-Royce and obtains injunction

The charm offensive is over at Qantas which early this evening announced a number of steps aimed at negotiating or recovering compensation from Rolls-Royce for the damage done to its business by the QF32 incident on November 4.

Qantas v RR

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19 thoughts on “New safety defect found in Qantas A380 engines

  1. deccles

    Will this also affect the other RR Trent 900 operators Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines or will this only be a problem because of Qantas using higher thrust?

  2. Ben Sandilands

    All three operators.

  3. Tweets that mention New safety defect found in Qantas A380 engines – Plane Talking -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Newton, Kieran Morrissey, Ben Sandilands, BROLAIR Intl., Ben Sandilands and others. Ben Sandilands said: ATSB issues new critical safety alert on RR Trent 900 engines @ http://tiny.cc/qnoei […]

  4. Mman

    I take it then that this is something of a smoking gun?

  5. David Klein

    So much for quality assurance on Rolls Royce engines, if a simple process such as counter-boring a hole in the oil feed stub pipe cannot be kept within tolerance during the machining process. The tarnish to the former Rolls Royce reputation for engineering excellence following the entire Trent 900 debacle will be immeasurable

  6. johnb78

    This could be reported as “Rolls-Royce has announced more details that it has discovered concerning the cause of the November 4th QF32 incident. In the short term, this will allow Qantas and the other operators to carry out targeted detailed checks to ensure it doesn’t happen again. It also brings the industry closer to a long-term fix for the problem”.

    The current tone of the article reads more like “something new and terrible has happened and OMG a Qantas plane is still in the air, how terrifying!!!”, which isn’t quite right. Although probably helps get the pageviews up, I guess 😉

  7. Quizzical

    Slightly OT but still relevant.

    Following Ben’s recent trip into nostalgia and your mention of “quality” in relation to British engineering excellence I remembered a nostalgia quote from British car boss Lord Nuffield.

    Lord Nuffield (head of the Morris Company) in an interview with an “Age” correspondent on 4th June 1945, “I predict some people are going to lose a packet of money building cars in Australia” he said.

    Of course that was while Britain still had a car industry before labour problems and attendant quality problems sent them all broke and foreign owned. Australia rolls on, so to speak.

    Perhaps the clever country should start producing jet engines!

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  10. Uwe

    Isn’t this just the causality extension of observed fact towards
    a pointlable and final detail?
    excess oil due to vibration damage was already known.
    Still open was if this was due to stressing beyond design margins,
    a metalurgic failure, wrong material or ( now found ) an error
    in properly machining that item.

  11. Mman

    Is it me, or is that illustration showing the fatigue cracking not labeled correctly?

    I would expect the clean part of the break to be the part that let go last.

  12. malcolmdbmunro

    Ben, your reporting on QA/RR engine debacle is excellent. Qantas as come in for its fair share of, deserved, criticism, from you. However, on this occasion they deserve some plaudits for how they have handled things, don’t you think? Credit where credit is due.

    The forthrightness of Qantas’ language is refreshing. Pity Boeing, with the 787, couldn’t take a leaf out of their book.

  13. Ben Sandilands

    Don’t think I was alone in being forthright in commending the Qantas handling of the QF32 issue. It was the right decision, the communication was excellent and the pursuit of RR for full compensation is undoubtedly right too.

  14. Incredible insights into the saving of QF32 revealed in the ATSB preliminary report – Plane Talking

    […] release of the report also follows by less than 24 hours the identification of a likely manufacturing defect in a misaligned stub pipe counter-boring in the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine that failed that could […]

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