Qantas grounds its A380s after engine failure

Qantas grounded its fleet of Airbus A380s today after one of the aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing following “significant engine failure.”

November 4, 2010  --  Qantas Airways grounded its fleet of double-decker Airbus A380s today after one of the aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore following “significant engine failure.”

Qantas Flight 32, which originated in London and was carrying 459 people (433 passengers and 26 crew), suffered trouble with one of its four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines shortly after departing Singapore for Sydney, Australia.

Passenger Christopher Lee told ABC radio the passengers heard a loud bang, and experienced rattling in the cabin.

“Some of the passengers then alerted cabin staff that there was an explosion, [and that] there was smoke or something to that effect. We circled in a holding pattern above Singapore for about an hour [before landing],” he said, noting that passengers were kept informed at all times.

Since the launch of the A380, fuel and computer glitches have grounded several planes. In August, pilots of a Lufthansa A380 flying from Tokyo to Frankfurt shut down one engine after sensors indicated an oil-pressure problem. The plane landed safely in Frankfurt. In April, a Qantas A380 damaged tires while landing in Sydney, showering sparks and scaring passengers. In Sept. 2009, a Singapore Airlines A380 traveling from Paris to Singapore suffered an engine problem, returned to Paris and landed without injuries.

A total of 37 A380s are now flying commercially. Apart from Qantas and Singapore Airlines, the other operators are Emirates, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa. An additional 234 A380s are on order from various airlines, according to Airbus.

Qantas has never had a fatal accident. A mid-air explosion blew a minivan-size hole in the side of a Qantas 747-400 in 2008 which Australian air safety investigators blamed on an oxygen bottle.

Today’s incident came just days before Qantas was due to celebrate its 90th anniversary.