EASA eases safety inspections for A380’s Trent 900 engines

From the WSJ:

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Agence France-Presse/Getty Images The damaged Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine and wing section from a Qantas Airways Airbus A380.

European aviation regulators on Tuesday substantially relaxed tight inspection rules covering Rolls-Royce Group PLC engines on Airbus A380 superjumbo jetliners, signaling that safety concerns about the planes are fading. The European Aviation Safety Agency, dropping emergency mandates to inspect Trent 900 engines after every 20 flights, moved to require repetitive inspections of most of the engines after 100 flights. The change is likely to reduce disruption of flight schedules, according to industry officials.

EASA’s move follows intensive inspections of Trent 900s on A380s operated by Qantas, Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Deutsche Lufthansa AG. In its latest directive, the agency said a review of manufacturing and inspection data convinced safety officials that many “lower risk” tubes are less prone to fracture and therefore don’t need such frequent checks.

Lifting the emergency directives so quickly, particularly after such a high-profile and dangerous event, indicates much of the fleet is unaffected by oil-system manufacturing defects.

To further assure the safety of Rolls-Royce-powered A380 jets, European regulators previously also ordered upgrades of Trent 900 electrical systems to prevent engine parts from turning dangerously fast, a condition that can lead to disintegration of spinning disks. Those enhancements already have been incorporated into the A380 fleet.

Problems caused by a manufacturing defect on an oil-supply tube have been blamed for the explosive failure of a relatively new Trent engine on the Qantas jet shortly after takeoff from Singapore. The fault has been found on the current fleet as well as at least one new plane slated for delivery to Qantas, according to industry officials. But on Tuesday, EASA for the first time specifically defined what it considers to be an acceptable minimum thickness for the walls of the tubes.

EASA’s decision also is good news for Qantas and the other carriers that fly A380s with Rolls-Royce engines because those airlines have been concerned about potential schedule disruptions and longer required layovers to accomplish the inspections.

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Australian Transport Safety Bureau report: The Trent 900 engine blew out after the Qantas A380 took off from Singapore on Nov. 4.

It would seem that the initial failings of the Trent 900 have now been found and are being rectified. But it needs a few more months of operation before it can be said that all the “teething” problems of the Trent 900 have been identified and resolved. The costs for the fix – mainly to be borne by Rolls Royce – have still to be added up and will not be finally clear for a few more months.

EASA had also relaxed inspection requirements before the explosion on the Qantas A380 probably in response to representations by the engine manufacturer and /or the airlines. One hopes that their decision to relax inspections this time is not just in response to pressure.

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