Qantas flight QF32 A380 engine explosion: Rolls-Royce to blame says ATSB report

By John Walton, May 19 2011
Qantas flight QF32 A380 engine explosion: Rolls-Royce to blame says ATSB report

Australia's ATSB air safety regulator has released an interim report that blames engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce for the Airbus A380 engine failure on flight QF32 last November.

The explosion in the engine shredded part of the wing and sent engine fragments into the side of the A380, necessitating an emergency landing in Singapore. 

Leaked photos from the investigation show the extent of the damage to the superjumbo -- although, reassuringly for passengers, there were no injuries as a result.

In March, the ABC Four Corners TV programme revealed that Rolls-Royce knew that the engines were defective.

But the full extent of the problem is shown in the new ATSB report.

The main focus of the report is on an oil pipe defect that "resulted in fatigue cracking in the pipe, so that oil sprayed into an engine cavity where it ignited because of the high air temperature."

An engine disc then failed and spun out of control, wrecking the engine and sending parts flying into the wing and fuselage of the A380.

Shockingly, Rolls-Royce didn't keep adequate records of the oil pipe part that caused the near-disaster.

"A lack of measurement records for the FW48020 standard oil feed pipes meant that Rolls-Royce was unable to establish whether those oil feed pipes had been manufactured to specification," the ATSB ruled.

The ATSB also recommended "that Rolls-Royce plc address the safety issue and take actions necessary to ensure the safety of flight operations in transport aircraft equipped with Rolls-Royce plc Trent 900 series engines."

Some of those actions have already been taken, resulting in the removal of 53 A380 engines from service since the QF32 incident.

The ATSB's final report is expected in May 2012. Meanwhile, the Qantas A380 involved in the incident, VH-OQA (named Nancy-Bird Walton) is still in Singapore -- without its engines -- awaiting repair.

In related news, the ATSB also ruled that a partial power loss in February on a second Qantas A380, VH-OQC (named Paul McGinness), was caused by an oil leak.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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