Qantas resumes A380 flights -- with restrictions

By danwarne, November 28 2010
Qantas resumes A380 flights -- with restrictions

Qantas’ A380 fleet has been grounded for almost four weeks after an explosion caused one of the engines of flight QF32 to break apart and send shrapnel into the wing. 

Chief executive Alan Joyce was on board the first flight, QF31 to Singapore to help reassure the flying public that the plane is safe to fly again. After Singapore QF31 flies onward to London.

 Joyce was on hand at Sydney airport and was quoted as saying “It's great that we can reintroduce the aircraft,” and “we are 100 per cent comfortable with the operation of the aircraft.”

Previous text: Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has announced his airline will start flying two A380s again. He has also pledged to be on the first flight -- QF31 from Sydney to London via Singapore this Saturday.

However, the Australian flag-carrier will only fly the A380 on routes that don't require the higher engine thrust to take off.

The use of high engine thrust was implicated with the engine wear that led to the engine explosion of the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine on Qantas' A380. Qantas has to use higher engine thrust than other airlines at take off, because the distance between Sydney and Los Angeles means the plane has to carry a heavier weight of fuel, requiring more engine power to get off the ground. 

Even though the higher engine thrust is within the manufacturer's specifications, Qantas has said it will only fly the A380 on shorter routes that don't require as much thrust.

Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines will now be inspected every 20 flights, and Qantas will only use engines that have the latest Rolls-Royce modifications.

"The aircraft have been grounded for 19 days and we believe it's now appropriate to bring them back to service," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said in a press conference this morning.

"We've done extensive checking on the engines as part of an airworthy directive; that checking has involved us now finding issues with up to 16 engines, and the engines on this aircraft we're flying back have been fully tested and we're comfortable with the operation of them."

Speaking about the first A380 that will be put back into service this weekend, Joyce said, "two of the engines are new engines to the aircraft. We have also put in additional conditions and restrictions that Qantas is applying above the A.D. and talking to the regulators and manufacturers, and CASA, we're confident the aircraft is fully safe to fly."

Only the Sydney to Los Angeles route requires the maximum engine thrust, so Qantas is voluntarily not operating flights to and from LA until it has sufficient information on the performance of the engines. It will, however, do one 'ferry' flight to get its A380 back from Los Angeles today so it can start flying it to London from Sydney on Saturday.

"We know this was an oil fire, we know what the causes of this oil fire could be, and as a consequence of that we've been able to develop a check regime for this aircraft to make sure this doesn't happen again."

"The modifications have been a criterion for which we've taken engines off the aircraft. If the engines haven't had the latest modifications, those engines have been removed."

Qantas will be taking two new Airbus A380 before Christmas, which means it will be flying four A380s before the end of the year. Alan Joyce said he has full confidence in Rolls-Royce as a partner, and in the Trent 900 engines, which will continue to be supplied on new A380s as they are delivered to Qantas.

The aircraft that suffered the mid-air engine explosion is still hangared in Singapore, where Airbus Industrie engineers will be performing major repair works to replace the wing and assess the entire aircraft to bring it back to factory standard.

Text of the Qantas press release


SYDNEY, 23 November 2010: Qantas today announced that it plans to resume initial Airbus A380 operations from Saturday, 27 November, commencing with a QF31 service from Sydney to London via Singapore.

The aircraft intended to operate this service will be transported to Sydney on a ferry flight from Los Angeles, scheduled to depart at 2300 local time, Monday, 22 November. A second aircraft is expected to depart Los Angeles for Sydney later this week.

The decision to restore A380 services follows an intensive Trent 900 engine inspection program carried out in close consultation with Rolls-Royce and Airbus. Together with the engine and aircraft manufacturers and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Qantas is now satisfied that it can begin reintroducing A380s to its international network progressively.

Initially, Qantas will operate a single A380 on routes between Australia and the United Kingdom. As more A380s return to service, Qantas will assess when and how best to deploy them.

In line with its conservative approach to operational safety, Qantas is voluntarily suspending A380 services on routes that regularly require use of maximum certified engine thrust and will do so until further operational experience is gained or possible additional changes are made to engines.

This is an operational decision by Qantas and pilots still have access to maximum certified thrust if they require it during flight. It is not a manufacturer’s directive.

Qantas has continued to operate a full international and domestic schedule, using Boeing 747 aircraft on long-haul routes to the United States and Europe, Airbus A330 aircraft to replace B747s on some routes and Boeing 767s to replace A330s on other routes. The Qantas Group has a fleet of over 250 aircraft, providing it with the strength and flexibility to minimise disruption for passengers.

A380 engines remain subject to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Airworthiness Directive issued on 11 November, mandating that all Trent 900s undergo certain inspections every 20 flying cycles. Qantas will comply fully with this directive both for A380s brought back into service and for new aircraft entering the Qantas fleet.

Qantas would like to express thanks to customers for their patience and to employees for their commitment during recent weeks, and regrets any inconvenience caused.

Additional information:

  • There are six A380s in the Qantas fleet.
  • Two aircraft will return to service this week.
  • The aircraft involved in the QF32 incident remains in Singapore under official investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).
  • The remaining aircraft already in the fleet will be returned to service once Qantas, the manufacturers and regulators are completely satisfied that it is safe to do so.
  • Qantas is scheduled to take delivery of two new A380s before the end of 2010 and a further two in early 2011.

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