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Dec 3, 2010

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This morning’s detailed preliminary report by the ATSB of the inquiry it is leading into the QF32 A380 incident of November 4 tells us experience and professionalism rather than luck, as some have written, extracted the giant airliner from its unprecedented predicament.

The 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 on its own prove to have been the cause of the near disaster.

But the importance of this report is in its careful documentation of what happened to QF32, and what the pilots did. Was it luck that the normal flight deck crew was augmented by two more captains, one under training, and one a training and checking captain? Or was it luck that the intermediate pressure turbine that failed did not also puncture the cabin of the jet, or ignite the fuel tanks, or break out of the engine at an altitude where the air pressure differential could have lead to structural breakup?

Maybe. But after the dice rolled on November 4, there is no doubt that professional experienced piloting was the crucial factor, and the debate as to whether the extra captains were the deciding factor in the flight making it back to Changi is truly one that can only be discussed realistically by pilots themselves.

These extracts from what is a very readable report are in the order in which they appear.

1 a

What will fascinate some readers is the imprecision of the warning in that the engine fire warning was transient, and there was a period when the overheat warning was showing when a substantial parts of the engine were falling over Batam Island in Indonesia.

The alerts that came up on the Electronic Centralised Aircraft Monitor screens were as follows below.

part 2 messagespart 3 messagesThe crew workload is made apparent, but so its the methodical and logical process of trouble shooting and testing the continued controllability of the jet

part 4 response

The report brings clarity to discussions in various forums elsewhere as to why the flight remained aloft for so long, and how the crew were prepared to land much sooner if the situation deteriorated, further.

part 5 approachpart 6 touchdownpart 7 securingThe report details repeated attempts to shut down the No 1 engine by working through or around the broken systems, however eventually, after it had run for two hours and 7 minutes, it was drowned to a standstill by fire hoses.

There is also a sequence of events record which shows that the interval from the data from the No2 engine beginning to diverge from the performance figures being recorded by the other three engines up to brief abnormal vibrations followed by the breakup of the intermediate pressure turbine was 49 seconds.

It doesn’t contain all of the graphics found in the Airbus report of the damage to the A380 which appeared first in the media in this report in Plane Talking.

But it certainly brings us up to speed with what happened and how and when on November 4, as well as the other calamity that is now overtaking Rolls-Royce as Qantas pursues a very, very large claim for compensation.

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