Does the fault lie with Rolls Royce or with the RR / Qantas combination?

Between August 30th and November 5th there have been at least 4 engine incidents involving a Rolls Royce engine causing a shut down of one engine and an emergency landing.

  1. August 30th QF 74, Boeing 747-400, RR RB211-524 engines, returned to San Francisco after one engine exploded, holes found in engine casing
  2. September 28th, SQ 333, A380-800, RR Trent 900 engines, returned to Paris after  one engine failed, two and a half hours after take-off.
  3. November 4th, QF32, A380, Trent 900 engines, return to Singapore after one engine exploded over Batam shortly after take-off
  4. November 5th, QF6, Boeing 747-400, RR RB 211-524 engines, returned to Changi, Singapore after one engine failed shortly after take-off.

Four incidents with engine failure in just over two months is quite out of the ordinary. All incidents involve Rolls Royce engines, three incidents involve Qantas aircraft, two were with Airbus A 380 aircraft and two with Boeing 747-400 jets. All of the incidents were soon after take-off (though the Singapore Airlines incident was 2.5 hours after take-off). Two of the incidents were “uncontained”, catastrophic engine failures (both Qantas) and the other two engine failures involved – by witness accounts – oil leaks and/or fires but no “uncontained explosions”. It is not clear whether in the latter 2 cases the engines were shut down or failed.

  • The proximity to take-off suggests maintenance issues but two different airlines were involved (though it seems that Rolls Royce are still responsible for maintenance of the A 380 Trent 900 engines).
  • Rolls Royce engines are used by many airlines and on many different aircraft types. It appears therefore that aircraft type is not the issue.
  • Rolls Royce engines and perhaps some design fault (since even the RB 211 engines which failed on the Boeing 747s had some Trent features) looks like the prime culprit,
  • the Rolls Royce Trent/ Qantas combination seems particularly prone to incidents.

In order of probability then the engine failure issue would seem to be caused by a Rolls Royce Trent design fault (which has then been introduced also into some of the RB 211-524’s powering the B747-400s), or some fault arising from the Qantas / RR Trent combination, or a maintenance issue specific to Rolls Royce’s maintenance organisation or a more general maintenance issue.

It is a tribute to engineers and engineering and safety standards that these 4 incidents led to no injuries whatever and were followed by perfectly safe landings even after the loss of one engine.

But a little more communication and information from Rolls Royce is called for. Singapore Airlines is also very tight with releasing any information about its incident. It is insufficient and inappropriate for Singapore Airlines to brush it off as a non-event. Lack of information only suggests something is being hidden.

And what of the Trent 1000 for the Boeing Dreamliner?

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2 Responses to “Does the fault lie with Rolls Royce or with the RR / Qantas combination?”

  1. Bob Wolfe Says:

    very erudite analysis

  2. Further Boeing Dreamliner delays and Rolls Royce shares feeling the heat « The k2p blog Says:

    […] million shares were sold on Thursday and Friday as Rolls Royce shares plummetted from 654p to 591p as their problems with the Trent 900 engines for the Airbus A380 and with the RB211-524 engines for the Boeing 747 […]

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