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Qantas claims Rolls-Royce in breach of duty

6-Dec-2010 10:59 AM

Qantas claimed in its filing to the Federal Court of Australia that Rolls-Royce was in breach of duty when it supplied the Trent 900 engines because of their design defect (Reuters, 03-Dec-2010). It has also alleged the company was in breach as the engines were unable to operate at high enough thrust levels to take off on services between Australia and Los Angeles. Qantas stated the new regulations imposed by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) means its A380s could carry only 80 passengers on services between Australia and Los Angeles and have thus become “uncommercial” on the route (AFP, 04-Dec-2010). Qantas did not quantify its losses but stated it has suffered damages from being forced to ground its A380 fleet, expected delays in the delivery of further A380s and because it cannot use the aircraft on trans-Pacific services.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau's (ATSB) Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan commended the pilots on Qantas’ A380 involved in the 04-Nov-2010 incident, stating the aircraft “would not have arrived safely in Singapore without the focused and effective action of the flight crew” (Reuters, 03-Nov-2010). Mr Dolan stated it he was satisfied with Qantas’ action, as “given no one was aware the potential problem existed, it is highly unlikely that any maintenance would have been able to establish the problem”. ATSB also stated it was satisfied with Rolls-Royce’s directives, stating they have adequately addressed immediate safety issues.

ATSB’s report shows the Trent 900 engine involved in the 04-Nov-2010 incident, Engine No 2, was originally fitted as the aircraft’s No 4 engine, but was removed in 2009 after metal was found in a chip detector (AAP, 06-Dec-2010). The engine was refitted in Feb-2010 after being sent away for repairs.

Qantas stated it completed one-off Trent 900 oil feed stubpipe inspections on the two A380s now in operation after the ATSB’s findings (Speed News, 03-Dec-2010). No issues were found. Qantas will either modify or fully replace 16 engines, with five already replaced. The carrier expects to make announcements on the return to service of further A380s before Christmas. Qantas has been forced to continue using B747 and B767 aircraft that it had planned to have retired by now due to the ongoing delays in the manufacture of the B787 Dreamliner and delays in the delivery of its A380s (Sydney Morning Herald, 03-Dec-2010).

Lufthansa stated it has been operating an A380 with a suspect Trent 900 engine over the past two weeks while it waited on a modified version of the engine (Bloomberg, 03-Dec-2010). Spokesperson Thomas Jachnow stated the engine has been receiving rigorous checks after each trip and posed no safety risk. The other 15 Trent 900 engines in Lufthansa’s four A380s are “non-critical” as they are newer models. Mr Jachnow stated the carrier continues to check these engines at least every 20 cycles, as advised by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).