Posts Tagged ‘Singapore Airlines’

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?

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.

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.

Qantas pushes its Trent 900 engines harder than other airlines

November 9, 2010

It would seem that while there may well be a fundamental issue with the Trent 900 as used by Qantas, the manner in which Qantas operates the engines may be a significant contributing factor. Sources indicate that Qantas run their engines “harder” than the other Trent 900 users (Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa) primarily, it seems, for economic reasons. Competitive pressures on airlines as well as those on the engine makers may be coming into play.



Qantas cracking the whip too hard? (


Qantas Airways  is reviewing the way it operates its A380 planes after last week’s engine blowout, a source said on Tuesday, amid reports that it worked its Rolls-Royce  engines harder than other airlines.

Qantas operates its A380 engines at higher thrust levels, which could result in resonating vibrations that cause oil lines to crack, The Australian newspaper said. The higher maximum thrust setting is used on some Qantas A380 take-offs on long-haul routes between Los Angeles, Sydney and Melbourne than other operators such as Singapore Airlines, the daily said, quoting unnamed engineers. However, the extra thrust setting of 72,000 pounds remained 3,000 pounds below the engine’s design limits and within operating guidelines, it added.

Chief Executive Alan Joyce said on Monday that its engines had a “slightly higher level of power” than those used in Singapore Airlines or Lufthansa planes, but they were certified to operate at those levels. The way Qantas operated the engines was part of a wider review, said an airline source, who was not authorised to talk publicly about the matter. “The operations are one of the things Qantas are reviewing along with the components,” said the source.

Qantas, which declined to comment on the report, said on Friday it suspected a material failure or a design issue may have caused last Thursday’s engine failure over Indonesia which forced the aircraft to make an emergency landing in Singapore.

Something amiss with the Qantas version of the Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines

November 8, 2010

Singapore Airlines has just announced, according to Reuters, that it had completed engine inspections on all its Airbus A380 aircraft and did not find any issues of concern.

“We have completed the engine inspections on all our A380 aircraft and did not find anything of concern,” SIA spokesman Nicholas Ionides said on Monday.

“The findings of the inspections have been reviewed with Rolls-Royce. Any further checks that may be recommended by the manufacturers will of course be done, and in the meantime we continue with our regular routine checks.”


Australia’s Qantas said on Monday it would keep its A380 fleet grounded for at least another 72 hours after discovering problems on three more of the superjumbo’s engines.

Singapore has 11 A 380s powered by Rolls Royce Trent engines while Qantas has 6 Airbus A 380s. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Qantas Airways Ltd. on Monday said its engineers found oil leaks in Rolls-Royce Group Ltd. engines on three of its grounded fleet of A380 jetliners, amid an investigation into the blowout of a turbine that forced one of its double-deck superjumbos to make an emergency landing in Singapore last week. “These engines are not performing to the parameters you would expect,” said Alan Joyce, chief executive of Qantas, in a press conference in Sydney. “The oil leaks were beyond normal tolerances.”

Mr. Joyce added that the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines that Qantas operates on its fleet of A380s are designed to provide more thrust and torque, and that this version of the turbine could be at fault. Engineers have identified oil leaks on engines from three separate Qantas A380s, one currently grounded in Sydney and two other aircraft in Los Angeles, he said.

Mr. Joyce said that Qantas uses a different design of Trent engine than those used by Singapore Airlines and Deutsche Lufthansa AG on its A380s.

The problem seems to be narrowing down to either the particular version of the Rolls Royce Trent 900 engine used by Qantas or the particular maintenance regime or procedures applying to the Qantas engines. In either case it should be of some cheer to Rolls Royce that the problem may not – on the surface – be a generic design fault with the Trent engines but something restricted to the engines as used by Qantas.

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

November 6, 2010

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?

Update! Singapore Airlines delays all A 380 flights for extra engine checks

November 4, 2010
Rolls-Royce Trent 900 on the prototype Airbus ...

Trent 900: Image via Wikipedia


After earlier saying they would continue all flights normally, Singapore Airlines Ltd. has delayed flights on Airbus A380 planes after engine trouble forced a Qantas superjumbo to make an emergency landing at Changi Airport. “Our engine manufacturer Rolls Royce and aircraft manufacturer Airbus have advised us to conduct precautionary technical checks on our A380 aircraft, following today’s incident involving another operator’s A380,” Singapore Airlines said in a statement late Thursday evening. “Resulting from this development, Singapore Airlines will be delaying all flights operating our A380 aircraft.”


Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines keep their Trent 900s flying

November 4, 2010


Singapore Airlines (SIA/SQ) Airbus A380 (9V-SK...

ISingapore Airlines A 380: Image via Wikipedia


While Qantas has grounded its A380 fleet, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines – who also use the Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines of the type which failed on the Qantas jet – are watching the situation but are keeping their A380’s flying.

Bloomberg reports:

Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Singapore Airlines Ltd. said they’ll keep their Airbus SAS A380s flying after Qantas Airways Ltd. grounded its six-strong superjumbo fleet following an engine explosion in mid-flight.

Lufthansa is operating its four A380s as normal, spokesman Boris Ogursky said by telephone, as is Singapore Airlines, which has 11 of the planes, according to a statement. The pair are the only other carriers with superjumbos powered by the same Rolls- Royce Group Plc Trent 900 engines used on the Qantas jet.

Australia’s Qantas will keep its fleet out of service “as long as it takes” after one of the four engines on an A380 failed en route from Singapore to Sydney, Chief Executive Officer Alan Joycesaid today. The pilots performed an emergency landing at Singapore at 11:46 a.m. local time.

Singapore Airlines was the first carrier to operate the A380 and has nine more on order, plus six options, according to its website. All will be powered by Trent 900 turbines.

Lufthansa, based in Cologne, Germany, has ordered 15 A380s, with those already delivered used for services to Tokyo, Beijing and Johannesburg. The Rolls engine passed compulsory tests “with flying colors” before delivery, the airline said in May.

Nicholas Ionides, head of corporate communications for Singapore Airlines, told Reuters the airline was liaising closely with its engineering team and manufacturers.


Dubai’s flag carrier Emirates Airline, the biggest single customer of the Airbus A380 aircraft, said Thursday all of its superjumbos are operational and on schedule, after an A380 owned by Qantas Airways (QAN.AU) was forced to make an emergency landing due to an engine failure.

“All of our Emirates A380s are operating as scheduled. Emirates has 13 A380s in operation, powered by Engine Alliance GP7200 engines,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Related posts:

Rolls Royce Trent 900 engine was subject of Airworthiness Directive on 17th September

November 4, 2010

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an AD concerning the RR Trent 900 engine recently:

ACTION: Final rule; request for comments.

SUMMARY: We are adopting a new airworthiness directive (AD) for the products listed above. This AD results from mandatory continuing airworthiness information (MCAI) issued by an aviation authority of another country to identify and correct an unsafe condition on an aviation product. The MCAI describes the unsafe condition as:

Wear, beyond Engine Manual limits, has been identified on the abutment faces of the splines on the Trent 900 Intermediate Pressure (IP) shaft rigid coupling on several engines during strip. The shaft to coupling spline interface provides the means of controlling the turbine axial setting and wear through of the splines would permit the IP turbine to move rearwards.

Rearward movement of the IP turbine would enable contact with static turbine components and would result in loss of engine performance with potential for in-flight shut down, oil migration and oil fire below the LP turbine discs prior to sufficient indication resulting in loss of LP turbine disc integrity.
We are issuing this AD to detect rearward movement of the IP turbine, which could result in loss of disc integrity, an uncontained failure of the engine, and damage to the airplane.

DATES: This AD becomes effective September 17, 2010.

Of course it is far too early to say if this has anything to do with the Trent 900 engine failures experienced by Singapore Airlines and Qantas on their A 380’s but the AD does talk about the possibility of an “uncontained failure of the engine”.

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