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Tue 23 Nov -- Qantas announces it will resume flying the A380, but under different conditions.
Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa are gearing up to have suspect A380 Rolls-Royce engines swapped for new ones.
The extensive and expensive program will see the beleagured engine-maker dismantle and upgrade the faulty engines to fix the oil leak problems, install a software upgrade to shut down the turbine before an oil leak could cause an engine to disintegrate, and then reinstall the overhauled engine onto the plane.
This process is likely to leave Qantas with only one A380 in the air, that being an all-new model which has literally just rolled out of the factory this month, until it takes delivery of its eigth superjumbo in December and the ninth in January.
Qantas could be forced to continue with its current interim schedule of Boeing 747 replacements on routes to Los Angeles, Singapore and London through to early 2011 as each of the six other A380s heads towards what Qantas CEO Alan Joyce calls a ''hospital line'' where the engine replacement, repair and refit will be carried out.
Rolls-Royce facilities in Hong Kong and Britain will carry out the repair and refit work.
It's estimated that 20 engines in the Singapore Airlines A380 fleet and two in Lufthansa's fleet will also need to be upgraded. The number of available 'spare' engines could also impact on the near-future deliveries of new A380s to customers including Qantas, Lufthansa and China Southern Airlines.
Rolls-Royce has issued a formal statement confirming it knows why Qantas' A380 engine exploded mid-flight, tearing holes in the wing and fuel tank of the aircraft.
The engine maker says "a specific component" in the turbine area of the engine failed, causing an oil fire, which then led to the "intermediate pressure turbine disc" ricocheting into the wing.
The statement did not name the specific component that failed and caused the engine fire. Australian Business Traveller has sought further comment from Rolls-Royce.
Rolls-Royce said it will replace the relevant module in engines, but did not name a timeframe for the fix.
Rolls-Royce Chief Executive Sir John Rose simultaneously announced a profit downgrade for the engine maker, saying "this event and the consequent actions will have an impact on the Group’s financial performance this year."
"These measures, undertaken in collaboration with Airbus, our Trent 900 customers and the regulators have regrettably led to some reduction in aircraft availability," the company said.
Fire extinguishers disabled by engine explosion
Pilots in aviation forums have quoted unnamed industry sources close to Qantas maintenance as saying that the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine explosion on Qantas' A380 severed control lines to fire suppression systems on the plane. Had the oil fire spread to the wing and ignited leaking jet fuel, the A380 crew would not have been able to extinguish the fire, the forum posts suggest.
Australian Business Traveller has repeatedly contacted Qantas to seek comment on this issue, but after initially promising to investigate, Qantas public relations has stopped responding to the enquiry.