Qantas hopes to resume A380 flights soon

Qantas hopes to have its Airbus A380 services resume within days and has blamed a faulty part or a "design issue" for the engine failure that forced an emergency landing in Singapore.

Passengers from the grounded Qantas Airbus A380 plane check-in on flights arranged to take them home on Friday Nov. 5, 2010 at the Changi International Airport in Singapore. Qantas grounded its Airbus A380 fleet after one of the superjumbo jets blew out an engine Thursday, shooting flames and raining large metal chunks before making a safe emergency landing in Singapore with 459 people aboard. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) *** Local Caption ***  SIN101_Singapore_Qantas_Emergency.jpg
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Qantas hopes to have its Airbus A380 services resumed within two days and has blamed a faulty part or a "design issue" for the engine failure that forced an emergency landing in Singapore and sparked global concern over the safety of the new fleet of aircraft.

The engine failure on Thursday marked the biggest incident to date for the world's largest passenger plane, which has been in service since 2007. It forced Qantas to ground its fleet of "superjumbos" and other airlines to recheck their own A380s.

"We believe this probably is most likely a material failure or some sort of design issue," the Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said yesterday.

Hours after Mr Joyce spoke, another Qantas plane with Rolls-Royce engines suffered an engine problem and turned back to Singapore's airport shortly after it took off for Sydney. Qantas said the problem with the smaller Boeing 747 was not serious and the flight was scheduled to take off again, 3hours and 30 minutes late.

Airbus yesterday asked airlines operating A380 jets with Rolls-Royce Group engines - the same as those in the Qantas aircraft - to perform inspection checks on the power plants before their next passenger flights.

Airbus is reiterating a notification made to airlines by Rolls-Royce, an Airbus spokesman said from Singapore. Airbus is a wholly-owned division of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Company (EADS).

Emirates Airline, the largest customer for the A380, and Air France-KLM Group, use power plants from Engine Alliance on their superjumbos. The engine-maker is a venture between General Electric and Pratt & Whitney.

Safety checks on Qantas's six A380s will take 24 to 48 hours to complete.

"If we don't find any adverse findings in those checks the aircraft will resume operations," said Mr Joyce.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said yesterday there was no indication foul play had contributed to Thursday's incident.

Singapore Airlines resumed flying its A380s yesterday, lifting a grounding order imposed after the Qantas incident. The German airline Lufthansa said it would conduct checks without interrupting flights.

Singapore's clearance of its 11 A380s, the second-largest fleet in the world, will be a relief for Airbus and Rolls-Royce, which lost more than $1.5 billion (Dh5.5bn) in combined market value on Thursday. EADS shares fell 3.6 per cent, while Rolls-Royce shares shed 4.8 per cent, the biggest decline for the company in more than six months.

The Commonwealth Bank aviation analyst Matt Crowe said there was unlikely to be any longer-term damage to Qantas's reputation as investors had tended to "move on" from previous safety incidents, which have never resulted in a fatal crash for the airline.

Mr Joyce said it was too early to assess the financial impact of grounding its A380s but Mr Crowe estimated the grounding could cost up to A$20 million (Dh74.2m) in revenues if the planes remained on the ground for a week.

The volcanic ash cloud that disrupted European air travel in April lasted about two weeks and cost Qantas A$46m.

Qantas fell 1 per cent to A$2.86 in Sydney trading yesterday, compared with a gain of 1.2 per cent by the benchmark ASX 200 Index.

Rolls-Royce dropped as much as 3 per cent in London trading. The company issued a statement urging operators of the aircraft to perform safety checks on its Trent 900 engines.

Airbus has sent a team to Singapore to help with the investigation.

One passenger aboard Thursday's Qantas flight reported hearing a "massive bang" while photographs of the engine showed its outer rear casing had been torn apart.

Passengers also reported that a second engine on the aircraft failed to shut down once on the tarmac, sparking fears it could ignite fuel spilling from the failed engine.

Mr Joyce confirmed the other engine had failed to shut down after landing but said it could have been affected in some way by the first engine mishap, which caused parts to disintegrate. "We are still investigating the causes of that," he said.

Qantas said its engineers, along with those from Airbus and Rolls-Royce, were working non-stop to determine what went wrong.

* With Bloomberg, Reuters, Dow Jones and Associated Press