Qantas prepares for legal action against Rolls Royce

The Trent 900 fix is not going to be cheap for Rolls Royce. I am still maintaining my estimate that the total cost for the engine manufacturer will be in excess of $300 M.

The Wall Street Journal:

Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd. Thursday said it has taken measures that would allow litigation against Rolls-Royce Group PLC  if it fails to reach a commercial settlement over the recent failure of a Trent 900 engine powering one of its A380 super jumbos. Qantas confirmed in a statement it is in talks with Rolls Royce over the “financial and operational impacts” of the engine failure.

Also Thursday, the international carrier said it plans fresh inspections on the Trent 900 engines after Australian safety regulators said they have identified a possible manufacturing flaw.

Qantas was forced to ground its fleet of six A380s last month after an engine on board flight QF32 exploded above Batam Island, Indonesia shortly after the airplane took off from Singapore, en route to Australia on November 4. Two of the mega airliners have since returned to service.

The explosion has put U.K., Derby-based Rolls-Royce engines under the microscope as airlines around the world that operate the Airbus A380 run a raft of safety tests. Airbus is a division of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co.

A statement of claim has been filed by Qantas and an injunction by the Federal Court of Australia granted, ensuring the carrier can pursue legal action if settlement does not emerge, it said in a statement.

Australian safety investigators now believe the cause of the November mid-air drama may have been a manufacturing defect with an oil tube connection on some Trent 900 engines. That problem could cause oil leakage, cracking and possible engine failure from an oil fire, the Australian Transport and Safety Bureau said Thursday.

“The safety recommendation of the ATSB is consistent with what we have said before. We have instituted a regime of inspection, maintenance and removal which has assured safe operation. This programme has been agreed in collaboration with Airbus, our airline customers and the regulators,” a Rolls-Royce spokesman said.

Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and even Airbus (EADS) can have claims on Rolls Royce and all may well have to resort to legal action to reach settlements. Qantas and Airbus have the greatest potential claims. Whether Rolls Royce knew about defects in advance of the accident on QF32 will be a key issue to determine if the engines delivered by Rolls Royce were actually “fit for service”. If the engines were not “fit for service” it opens the door to an even greater levels of claims on Rolls Royce.

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