Posts Tagged ‘Qantas’

What did Rolls Royce know and when?

November 20, 2010

Rolls Royce have been conspicuously silent but it is now emerging from the airlines that Rolls Royce knew something was amiss with the older versions of the Trent 900 long before the engine failure on QF32 on November 4th. The indications are that they had serious doubts about the unmodified engines by May this year – and perhaps even earlier.

I posted my assessments about this on November 14th and 15th.

Did Rolls Royce know about the risk for a Trent 900 failure before the Qantas accident?

Problem with Trent 900 was known before accident and raises ethical questions

From an AP report via Yahoo Finance

Rolls-Royce modified a problematic section on new models of its engine for the world’s largest jetliner months before one caught fire and blew apart over Indonesia, a Lufthansa spokesman said Thursday.

The chief executive of Qantas, meanwhile, said Rolls-Royce had made modifications to the Trent 900 engine without telling the airline or Airbus, which makes the A380 superjumbo.

The officials’ remarks were the strongest indication yet that Rolls-Royce had addressed a defect in new models of the engine while allowing Airbus A380 superjumbos to continue flying with unmodified older models.

Lufthansa’s first A380, delivered by Airbus on May 19, had three newer versions of the Trent 900 engine and one older version, airline spokesman Thomas Jachnow said.

“When we got our first aircraft it was curious that one was from an older one and three were totally new from the production line,” Jachnow said. “I think this is more or less the cusp where the old to new happened.”

The Daily Telegraph carries a similar story:

The two airlines said Rolls had not informed them about the changes to the Trent 900, although sources close to the industry played down the modifications as “continuous improvements” and said reports that the changes related to the part that caused the oil leak on the Qantas A380 were “plain wrong”.

Rolls shares fell 11½, or 2pc, to 592p.

Investors are wary that the incident could cost Rolls customers. It is understood there are 22 A380s – bought by Qatar Airways, Kingfisher, Etihad and Air Austral – which are yet to decide whether to use the Trent 900 or a rival made by GE and Pratt & Whitney.

According to Alan Joyce, Qantas chief executive, up to 40 engines could be replaced. Mr Joyce also claimed that Rolls had already been changing the engine. “Rolls-Royce have gone and modified certain parts of this engine,” he stated. “If this was significant and was known to be significant, we would have liked to have known about that. We and Airbus weren’t aware of it. But it depends on what the purpose of modifications were for. It doesn’t look like it’s a significant modification, but it is a modification that has an impact on how the engines are performing.”

A Lufthansa spokesman said it had noticed differences in newer versions of the Trent 900 it had been sent.

In addition to all their technical and logistic issues, Rolls Royce now need to urgently address their loss of credibility and provide detailed answers to:

What did Rolls Royce know and when did they know it?

Rolls Royce kept Airbus and Qantas in the dark about two key engine modifications

November 18, 2010

The CEO of Qantas has revealed that when the Trent 900 engine failed on QF32, shrapnel from the exploding engine narrowly missed the wing fuel tank which could have caused the plane to explode. The Sydney Morning Herald:

SHRAPNEL from the engine explosion on Qantas QF32 severed a fuel pipe and narrowly missed the wing’s fuel tank, according to official preliminary reports. The chief executive, Alan Joyce, also confirmed yesterday that as many as 40 Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines fitted to A380 superjumbos worldwide might have to be replaced.

The reports, seen by the Herald, of the damage incurred on November 4 reveal the extent to which metal components tore through the wing. The debris severed wiring looms, chopping a main fuel pipe, puncturing structural spars and ribs and punching through wing surface panels.

Qantas was ”very, very lucky” that thousands of litres of highly flammable jet fuel in the wings did not ignite from the ruptured fuel pipe or from a spark from severed wiring, said Adrian Mouritz, the head of aerospace and aviation engineering at RMIT University. ”If that fuel ignited, that aircraft would have exploded,” he said.

Qantas and Rolls-Royce are still ”days away” from identifying which engines might have to be replaced. The engine maker had kept the airline and Airbus in the dark about two series of production changes to the engine’s internals.

”What Rolls-Royce have done is that they have modified certain parts of this engine. We and Airbus were not aware of it,” Mr Joyce said.

Further extracts from the official reports and pictures of the damage from

damage 01

Damage to the wing of QF32


The questions for Rolls Royce are multiplying and their lack of communications is astounding. Not only, it seems, did Rolls Royce know about the risks of engine failure before the Trent 900 exploded on QF32, but they have also modified the engine and quietly started introducing the modifications without Qantas and Airbus being aware of the significance or the risks with the unmodified engines!!!!!

Rolls Royce must replace 40 of 80 Trent 900 engines deployed

November 18, 2010

I posted a few days ago that Rolls Royce would need to change out about 40 of the Trent 900 engines on the A380’s in operation with Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.

Now -via Qantas and The Press Association – this number has been confirmed by Rolls Royce:

Up to half of the Rolls-Royce engines of the type which disintegrated on an Airbus superjumbo this month may need to be replaced by the three carriers in Australia, Singapore and Germany, Qantas’s chief executive has said.

Australia’s Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Germany’s Lufthansa fly A380s powered by four giant Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, with a total of 80 engines on 20 planes.

Qantas chief Alan Joyce said that Rolls-Royce had indicated that up to 40 of them may need to be replaced.

“Rolls-Royce are still working through the criteria for which engines need to be changed,” he said on the sidelines of an event in Sydney unrelated to the A380 incident. He said that 14 of the 24 engines on Qantas planes may have to be replaced.

Whether Rolls Royce knew about the engine fault and the consequent risk prior to the accident on QF32 remains unanswered and whether the European Regulator (EASA) relaxed its inspection frequency Directive in response to Rolls Royce representations also remains unanswered.

Did Rolls Royce know about the risk for a Trent 900 failure before the Qantas accident?

November 14, 2010

Another new twist to the Rolls Royce Trent story.

First it appears that the regulators (EASA) relaxed their original inspection requirements in their Directive of August. It is not clear if this relaxation was in response to the airlines or to the engine maker requesting a change.

Now it seems that Rolls Royce may well have known (perhaps a year ago) that a number of their engines on “older” A 380s were susceptible to oil leaks and therefore to the potentially catastrophic consequences of a fire. About 40 engines on the Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa A 380s have to be changed out.  The newer engines have undergone two modifications compared to the older engines. It seems that Rolls Royce started modifying oil systems on some engines almost a year ago.

If Rolls Royce knew about the risk to the Trent 900 before the flight of Qantas QF32 on November 4th, there is an ethical dimension which needs to be considered.

According to the Herald Sun,

Fourteen of the 24 Trent 900 engines fitted to the six A380s Qantas has grounded are suspected of having an oil leak problem. Another 24 “faulty” engines are on Singapore Airlines jets. The airline has grounded three A380s. Two have been found by the German carrier, which has suffered two Trent incidents.

Revised versions of the engine are being rushed to Qantas.

Sir John Rose, chairman of the British engine maker, issued a statement late on Friday in which he admitted a “specific component in the turbine area of the engine caused an oil fire”, which led to a turbine disc hurtling out. He offered “regret” for causing “disruption”. But he failed to reveal when Rolls-Royce discovered the turbines of the Trent 900 were being exposed to the dangerous oil leaks and the dates of the two upgrades.

Qantas, Singapore Airlines and German carrier Lufthansa installed the original-spec engines on some of their jets. It is understood Qantas has begun record checks to see whether Rolls kept its engineers informed of the design changes to the $25 million engines.

An aircraft mechanic with one of the three airlines claimed Rolls-Royce began modifying the oil lubrication system on the Trent 900 engine in the second half of last year.

Trent 900: European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) relaxed earlier directive and reduced inspection frequency

November 13, 2010

Now that it seems that the main cause of the uncontained failure of the Trent 900 on Qantas Airbus QF32 has been diagnosed, and that a remedy is being implemented, attention is turning to the Regulators.

In September the FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) for the Trent 900 based on an AD issued in August by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Since the incident EASA has now issued an Emergency AD regarding the inspection of wear within the Trent 900.

Yesterday  Joerg Handwerg, a spokesman for the pilots’ union for Lufthansa said that minor problems are routine for any jet engine, but it is possible that the issues were an indication that regulators did not adequately check the engine before approving it for commercial use. “When you see we have a problem with not just one of these engines but several then it points towards that we have a problem in the certification process,” Handwerg said.

Today Business Week (carrying an AP report) writes that “Air agency issued engine warning then eased checks”

Three months before a superjumbo jet engine blew apart and forced an emergency landing, European safety regulators had relaxed their inspection order for the same section of the engine implicated in the dangerous mishap. In January, the European Aviation Safety Agency required airlines to inspect for wear on the shaft that holds one of the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine’s turbine discs. The more wear they found, the sooner future inspections would be required.

In August, after Rolls-Royce had inspected several engines, EASA revised its directive. Previously, airlines had to calculate how worn out the part was based on the worst spot. Under the revised directive they calculate the average wear over the entire part. And previously they had to assume the part was wearing out at a worst-case rate. The new rule allows them to calculate the wear rate on each engine. That meant less frequent inspections, which the revised directive said were “sufficient to prevent unacceptable wear.”

The implication here is that the airlines (or Rolls Royce) were finding the inspection regime onerous and EASA responded by rationalising the change to base the frequency of future inspections on “average” wear rather than the “worst case wear” observed. Inspections of course require skilled resources, cost money and increase the down-time of aircraft. It becomes essentially an issue of operational cost. EASA – like all regulators – has to walk the tightrope balancing between public safety interests and the airlines’ need to keep costs reasonable.

Business Week continues that EASA apparently avoided the use of the word “uncontained” in its AD whereas the FAA Directive was more sharply worded:

The European directives warned of the potential for “in-flight shut down, oil migration and oil fire.” The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration went further in adopting a version of the European directive in September, warning of an “uncontained failure of the engine, and damage to the airplane.” Some of the parts inside jet engines rotate faster than the speed of sound. Engines are designed so that even if part of one shatters, pieces of metal aren’t sent rocketing away from the engine. An “uncontained engine failure” with shrapnel-like engine pieces that can damage other parts of the plane is both rare and extremely dangerous.

That’s what happened Nov. 4. Investigators have said that leaking oil caused a fire in the engine of a Qantas A380 that heated metal parts and made the motor disintegrate over Indonesia last week before the jetliner returned safely to Singapore. Experts say the mishap damaged vital systems on the plane, which had been bound for Sydney.

The safety order wasn’t addressing the exact same problem that caused the Qantas engine to disintegrate, but is very similar and involved a turbine next to the one that broke apart, said Chuck Eastlake, a former professor of aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The decision to relax the EASA order was likely based on inspections that gave engineers confidence that the wear on parts that could cause an oil leak was predictable enough to allow more time to elapse, Eastlake said. In hindsight that appears not to have been the case, he said.

“That kind of stuff is always a judgment call based on experience,” Eastlake said. “It’s hard to specifically justify a decision like that because it isn’t a matter of plugging numbers into a calculator and out comes an answer.”

John Cox, an aviation safety consultant and former airline pilot, said it’s a question of balancing “what is reasonable to ask the airlines to do against safety. The problem is we had a catastrophic failure. It turned out that apparently at least one engine had substantial wear that inspections didn’t pick up,” he said in a telephone interview from London.

No one from EASA was available to talk about the directive late Friday.

The different communications strategies used by the players involved have varied greatly. Rolls Royce have said remarkably little and even their latest statement was baked into a Trading Report for investors. In such a report the objective is to reassure the audience so that share price holds up and doesn’t crash. The conclusions – in consequence – have to be tailored to these objectives.  In this case the focus was on showing that while there will be some costs, profits for the year will not be hit too hard. Investors – and not passengers – were clearly the audience for this Rolls Royce communication and that is of some concern.

The other players – the airlines, Airbus and the Regulators – have all issued communications according to their interests. In fact, the most detailed information about the accident has come from Airbus sources and not from Qantas or from Rolls Royce. But that is coincidental, since clearly Airbus is greatly concerned that the aircraft not be “unfairly” blamed.  Other manufacturers of parts for the Trent 900 have also been quick to point out that “they are not at fault”. Yesterday SKF and Volvo Aero who are both sub-suppliers to Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines rushed to point out that the components they supply were not involved.

But of course the relationship between the airlines and the manufacturers is a symbiotic one. Business Week goes on:

Qantas spokesman Tom Woodward said Qantas has complied with all safety orders. Rolls-Royce Group PLC said in an update to investors Friday that the Qantas engine incident last week was due to failure in a specific component that caused an engine fire and “the release of the intermediate pressure turbine disc.” The company will be replacing the relevant part “according to an agreed program” as inspections on the engine continue in association with aviation regulators, it said. The company did not provide details. The disc, a plate that holds the turbine blades that move air through the motor, broke apart in last week’s mishap. Lufthansa spokesman Thomas Jachnow said the German airline has been told “that Rolls-Royce will gradually replace a modular part of the engine on all Trent 900 engines.” He added that the “exact parts to be replaced haven’t been finalized yet.”

Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy told reporters in Sydney that new versions of the Trent 900 engine that powers the Airbus A380 superjumbo will not suffer from the oil leaks that appear to have caused the fire on the Qantas flight. He said Rolls-Royce was equipping Trent 900s with software that would shut down a motor with leaking oil before it was put at risk of disintegration. Airbus said it planned to take newer versions of the Trent engine off its A380 production line and ship them to Qantas so that the airline could change the engines on some of its superjumbos.

“We think the engines on the production line will be fine,” The Age newspaper of Melbourne, Australia, quoted Leahy as saying. “The new engines should not have that issue … in terms of this one part that seems to have had a problem with leaking oil.”

The Herald Sun of Melbourne reported that Leahy said Rolls-Royce had made changes to some versions of engine to prevent such problems before the Nov. 4 mishap, but Airbus spokesman Justin Dubon denied the report. He said Leahy was referring to changes to the engines being made in light of the mishap.

Leahy, when asked whether he was suggesting that Rolls-Royce knew about problems with the engines before the Qantas incident, said, “Absolutely not,” according to Dubon. Dubon would not comment on whether changes had been made before the Qantas engine disintegrated, or whether the software Leahy described would be installed on engines already in service, referring those questions to Rolls-Royce. Rolls-Royce and the EASA declined repeated requests to comment about Leahy’s remarks.

A mechanic who works for an airline that uses the engine told The Associated Press, however, that Rolls-Royce made modifications to the oil lubrication system on Trent 900s delivered starting in the second half of 2009. The mechanic spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the media. The Qantas flight whose engine blew apart came into service in 2007.

Before last week’s disintegration there were four malfunctions involving Trent 900 engines dating to 2008, three of which centered on the turbines or oil system. All the planes landed safely.

Two of the malfunctions led to EASA warnings, including the directive issued in January and revised in August.

There are three turbines in the Trent 900 engine. The EASA order said wear had been found on parts in the intermediate turbine that could cause an oil leak. The order warned that oil leaking from the intermediate turbine could cause a fire under the adjacent lower turbine, causing the disc in that turbine to fail. Instead, there was an oil fire in the Qantas plane, but it was the intermediate turbine disc that failed. The two turbines are just a few inches apart, said Eastlake, the former aerospace engineering professor.

London-based Rolls-Royce said in an update to investors Friday that the incident will cause full year profit growth “to be slightly lower than previously guided,” but it also said that the company’s other operations will help to offset any losses.

Shares in the company rose after the update — a signal that investors are happy to see a definitive statement after days of silence from the world’s second-biggest engine maker behind General Electric.

There is clearly a need for looking again at the role of Regulators and how they create the balance between “public concern” and the interests of the industry they regulate. This is not unlike the balance in the financial world that regulators and auditors have spectacularly failed to achieve in recent years. This failure has been perhaps the primary cause of the financial crisis.

I cannot help thinking also that when the number of players is limited (as with aircraft suppliers or engine manufacturers) that there is a point beyond which competitive pressure can become counter-productive.

Trent 900: Rolls Royce and Airbus statements

November 12, 2010

Trent 900 update

Friday, 12 November 2010

Rolls-Royce is now in a position to provide an update on its statement of 8 November concerning the engine failure on the Trent 900 powered A380 Qantas flight QF32 on 4 November 2010.

Immediately following this incident a regime of engine checks was introduced on the Trent 900s to understand the cause and to ensure safe operation. These have been conducted in parallel with a rigorous examination of all available evidence, including data from the damaged engine and its monitoring system, analysis of recovered material and interrogation of the fleet history.

These investigations have led Rolls-Royce to draw two key conclusions. First, as previously announced, the issue is specific to the Trent 900. Second, the failure was confined to a specific component in the turbine area of the engine. This caused an oil fire, which led to the release of the intermediate pressure turbine disc.

Rolls-Royce continues to work closely with the investigating authorities.

Our process of inspection will continue and will be supplemented by the replacement of the relevant module according to an agreed programme.

These measures, undertaken in collaboration with Airbus, our Trent 900 customers and the regulators have regrettably led to some reduction in aircraft availability. This programme will enable our customers progressively to bring the whole fleet back into service.

Safety continues to be Rolls-Royce’s highest priority.

This undated image provided by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau shows a jagged and bent piece of a turbine disc from a Qantas superjumbo Rolls-Royce engine that exploded Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is leading an international investigation into the blowout on the world's newest and largest airliner, appealed for help from residents of Indonesia's Batam island to find the missing chunk of a turbine disc. (AP Photo/ATSB) EDITORIAL USE ONLY - No Sales

image provided by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau shows a jagged and bent piece of a turbine disc from a Qantas superjumbo Rolls-Royce engine that exploded Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/ATSB)

Rolls Royce does not identify the faulty component in its stement but there are reports that it was a faulty bearing box from Airbus.

Washington Post:

An Airbus executive said Friday that Rolls-Royce has identified a faulty bearing box as the cause of the oil leak problem implicated in the midair disintegration of an engine on one of the world’s largest airliners, an Australian newspaper reported.

Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy told reporters in Sydney that Rolls-Royce had at some point fixed the bearing box on newer versions of the massive Trent 900 engine, a model designed for the massive A380 superjumbo. He said Rolls was now fixing it on older versions. The Herald Sun reported his comments on its website. His comments did not address why Rolls-Royce had not fixed the bearing box in older versions of the engine. Airbus did not elaborate and Rolls-Royce declined to comment on his remarks.

The box in question contains the metal ball bearings that allow movement of the drive shaft that spins the turbines inside jet engines. Investigators have said that leaking oil caused a fire in the engine of a Qantas A380 that heated metal parts and made the motor disintegrate over Indonesia last week, sending shrapnel into the wing and cutting vital safety systems before the jetliner landed safely in Singapore. They have focused on broken pieces of the engine’s heavy turbine disc, a plate that holds the turbine blades that move air through the motor. Engines on the A380 malfunctioned four times before the disintegration on the flight from Singapore to Sydney. All of the planes landed safely.

The problems dating to 2008 led to two warnings for airlines to check parts of the Trent 900. Three of the four problems centered on the turbines or oil system. Rolls-Royce Group PLC said in an update to investors Friday that the disintegration of the Qantas engine resulted from a problem in a specific component in the Trent 900, but it did not provide details. “The failure was confined to a specific component in the turbine area of the engine. This caused an oil fire, which led to the release of the intermediate pressure turbine disc,” Rolls-Royce said.

The statement supports a report from the European Aviation Safety Agency, which issued an emergency order Thursday requiring airlines to re-examine their Trent 900s and ground any planes with suspicious leaks.

Leahy said the new models of the Trent 900 had been redesigned to eliminate the problem of excess oil causing turbine fires. He said that Rolls-Royce was retrofitting the older versions with new parts to stop the oil leaks and computer software that would shut down an engine with leaking oil before it was put at risk of disintegration. “In the future the computer will have software that can identify a problem at the outset and it will shut down an engine before a turbine disc can go out of control and come apart,” Leahy told the Herald Sun. Leaks or oil stains have been discovered on six of the total of twenty A380s operated by Qantas, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines that use the Trent 900, a technologically advanced model designed to be lighter, quieter and more efficient than older engines. Qantas and Singapore Airlines have grounded nine of the world’s largest airliner between them while Germany’s Lufthansa has already replaced an engine on one of its A380s.

Rolls-Royce’s chief executive said the company will be replacing the relevant part to enable its customers to bring the whole fleet back into service. Airbus will take Rolls-Royce engines off the final assembly line in Toulouse, France, and send them to Qantas “so we can get Qantas back up and flying,” the Airbus press office said. The disintegration on the Qantas A380 was far more serious than the airline has implied in its public statements, however, experts said.

Damage from engine shrapnel to the wing over the engine occurred very close to the wing’s front spar, one of two support beams in the wing that attach the wing to the plane, said John Goglia, a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board and an expert on airline maintenance. If the shrapnel had hit the spar it could possibly have weakened the spar and even have caused the wing to fall off, he said.

As it was, the shrapnel appears to have damaged electrical cables and hydraulic lines inside the wing, Goglia said. Pilots were unable to close the landing gear doors, an indication of hydraulic damage, and had difficulty shutting down the engine next to the engine that disintegrated, an indication of an electrical problem, he said. The A380 has four engines.

Photos and video of the incident and its aftermath show the shrapnel clearly ruptured a hydraulic line and an electric line in the wing, cutting off the pilots’ control of half the brake flaps and the remaining engine on the affected wing, along with the door of the landing-gear compartment, said Joerg Handwerg, a spokesman for the pilots’ union for Lufthansa.

In its trading update Friday, London-based Rolls-Royce said the incident will cause full year profit growth “to be slightly lower than previously guided,” but it also said that the company’s other operations will help to offset any losses. Back in July, the company said that its underlying profits would grow by 4-5 percent compared to 2009.

Shares in the company rose after the update – a signal that investors are happy to see a definitive statement after days of silence from the world’s second-biggest engine maker behind General Electric and one of the last globally important industrial manufacturing companies in Britain.

Rolls-Royce shares were up 4 percent at 607.5 pence ($9.74) in midmorning trade on the London Stock Exchange.

Handwerg said that minor problems are routine for any jet engine, but it is possible that the issues were an indication that regulators did not adequately check the engine before approving it for commercial use.

“When you see we have a problem with not just one of these engines but several then it points towards that we have a problem in the certification process,” Handwerg said.


Rolls Royce to announce “solution” to Trent 900 problem later today

November 12, 2010

Rolls Royce are due to make a Trading Report today. They have informed their customer airlines and Airbus that they will announce that they have found the cause of the Trent 900 engine failure on the Qantas A 380 and have a planned solution. But Airbus expects that implementing the solution will take some time and will not be a quick fix.

Qantas Airbus A380 after making emergency landing at Singapore's Changi airport

Uncontained failure of the QF 32 RR Trent 900

Sydney Morning Herald:

British jet engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce will announce this afternoon that it has found a solution to the engine failure that caused a Qantas A380 to make an emergency landing in Singapore last week. Rolls-Royce is due to release a statement at 6pm AEST revealing that it has identified the problem with the Trent 900 engines and will make changes to their software.

This is aimed at enabling the engines to be shut down before they reach a stage at which they are about to disintegrate. Airbus’s chief operating officer, John Leahy, said in Sydney today that he had been informed that Rolls-Royce would issue a statement late today stating that they had found the cause of the engine explosion last week.

“They know they have found a solution to what caused the problem. They know how to fix that now but it will take some time,” he said.

Mr Leahy said he did not know how long it would take to make the changes.

Rolls-Royce’s investigation into the midair incident involving QF32 on November 4 had focused on an oil fire which had caused the failure of the number two engine’s intermediate turbine disc.

Rolls Royce investors will be watching closely:

RR one month share price

Qantas preparing for summer schedules without their A 380 fleet?

November 11, 2010

It seems that Qantas are preparing their summer schedules allowing for a potentially long non-availability of their A380s.

SMH (Business Day) reports that signs have emerged (that) Qantas’ flagship A380 aircraft may be out of service over the summer holidays, with its new schedule for international flights in coming weeks not including the A380.

Fairfax media says the airline’s A330 aircraft have replaced Boeing 747s on several Asian routes, freeing up the Boeing 747s to fly on the long-haul routes to Los Angeles and London. Fairfax quoted aviation insiders as saying that the Qantas A380 fleet was likely to remain grounded for weeks with the engine problem likely to be taking quite some time.

Qantas says it still hopes the A380s will be cleared within days, but at this stage it can provide no update and it won’t return the A380s to service until it can guarantee absolute safety.

Aviation Week reveals that all the changes and inspections of the engines on the A380s are straining the operations of Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.

The decisions by Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Lufthansa to replace Trent 900 engines on parts of their Airbus A380 fleets indicates continued uncertainty over what prompted the uncontained engine failure on a Qantas Airways A380 and is highlighting the operational strains when one of the mega-transports is not available.

But the upheaval in A380 operations – the first significant disruptions for the Airbus flagship since it entered service in 2007 – also is highlighting the challenges airlines face when having to replace an A380 in day-to-day operations. To mitigate the effects, Lufthansa, for instance, is rushing to make its engine change so it will not have to miss another flight.

One issue for Lufthansa is that the latest engine change will consume its last available spare Trent 900.

With three of its 12 A380s grounded for engine changes, an SIA spokesman acknowledges that there will be flight disruptions to passengers. All three aircraft are displaced from the airline’s home base, with one located in London and the other two at Sydney.

The Age also reports that Airlines are frustrated with Roll-Royce’s reluctance to communicate publicly. Even Emirates – which uses different engines on its A380 – said it was worried that passengers might be frightened off.

“We really don’t want this aircraft tarnished with a reputation for failures in certain areas,” said Emirates’ president Tim Clark. ”One thing we will not allow is a contagion effect.”

Rolls Royce faces 3 different engine issues as Singapore Airlines changes engines on 3 A 380s

November 10, 2010

It seems that Rolls Royce are facing  issues with three different engines; the Trent 900 for the A380s, the RB211-524s having Trent features and the Trent 1000.

Singapore Airlines are grounding three of their A380s for engine change-outs as a precautionary measure.


Singapore Airlines (SIA) said Wednesday it had grounded three Airbus A380 planes to carry out “precautionary” engine changes following a mid-air engine failure on a Qantas-operated superjumbo. “Based on further analysis of inspection findings as the investigation into last week’s incident involving another operator’s Airbus A380 is progressing, Singapore Airlines will be carrying out precautionary engine changes on three A380s,” the carrier said in a statement.

An SIA spokeswoman told AFP that Rolls Royce had advised the carrier to change the engines after tests showed oil stains on them. “We were advised by Rolls-Royce in particular that these three engines had signs of oil stains,” she said, stressing the issue was different from the problem that affected the Qantas A380 plane last week.

The three planes are now in London, Sydney and Melbourne pending the engine changes, and SIA could not confirm the duration of their grounding nor the cost of replacing the engines.

My simplistic view of what is certainly a very complicated picture is that there are certain operating conditions at which the Trent 900 is subject to oil leaks (possibly because some oil carrying pipes are susceptible to vibration based cracks). These operating conditions are probably when the Trent 900 is being “pushed” close to maximum thrust conditions and Qantas’ method of operation has these engines operating at these conditions for more of the time than other airlines. This mode of operation probably occurs more often at or soon after take-off.

Even though Rolls Royce has said that the issues with the Trent 1000 are entirely different and have been fixed, there remains the issue of whether the Trent based improvements when introduced into the RB211-524 engine also creates a “dangerous” operating zone.

It seems to me that Rolls Royce is wrestling with at least 3 different engine issues:

  1. with the Trent 900 for the A 380’s, especially at high-thrust conditions which Qantas uses more than other airlines,
  2. with the RB211-524 (xT) where the (T) represents the use of Trent features and used mainly in Boeing 747-400’s, and
  3. with the Trent 1000 for the Boeing Dreamliner where some issues have been fixed but where delays are still in the air.

I have no doubt that they are going to get fixed but the direct cost will be high and my guess is that Rolls Royce will have to bear the brunt of the cost with some costs incurred by Qantas for their own fleet. It will need the sale of many Trent 900s before Rolls Royce can amortise all the development and “teething” costs for this engine. It is of some small comfort that the number of engines to be “fixed in the field” is relatively small. The costs for Airbus will be mainly indirect for the loss of reputation and for some lost opportunities. But the A 380’s ability to land safely even after one wing was heavily damaged is not unimpressive.

Damage to Qantas A380 aircraft was more severe than thought

November 9, 2010

The Australian:

New suggestions have emerged that a spectacular engine failure near Singapore last week caused more damage to the plane involved than first thought. The No 2 engine’s violent disintegration ripped a hole through the Airbus A380’s left wing, destroying wiring that prevented the pilots from turning off the No 1 engine and causing a fuel leak. Suggestions have now emerged that there was also significant damage to hydraulic systems that prevented spoilers, panels on the wing that create drag to slow the plane down, from deploying.


The wrecked engine after the plane landed in Singapore.

The wrecked engine after the plane landed in Singapore.


The suggestions came as the Australian Transport Safety Bureau yesterday interviewed the flight crew of the stricken A380 and performed the first boroscope inspection of the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine. Investigators are continuing their search for the rest of a turbine disc that broke up in the incident and have set up a schedule for examining a recovered piece that has been sent to Britain for forensic tests.

Inspections of the grounded planes continued yesterday amid suggestions European regulators were poised to issue an airworthiness directive on the checks.

With this amount of damage to the wing it is a tribute to the pilots and to the Airbus A380 aircraft that the landing in Singapore was as smooth as it was and with no injuries at all.

Rolls Royce has said that the issues are specific to the Trent 900 and there are further indications that the issues may be specific to the engines as used by Qantas.


Rolls-Royce says that the uncontained engine failure on a Qantas Airbus A380 en route from Singapore to Sydney on November 4 “is specific to the Trent 900. We can be certain that the separate Trent 1000 event which occurred in August 2010 on a test bed in Derby is unconnected,” Rolls-Royce said in a statement yesterday. “This incident happened during a development program with an engine operating outside normal parameters. We understand the cause and a solution has been implemented.”

The engine maker added that it would provide a further update on the investigation with its interim management statement on November 12.

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