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Rolls-Royce identifies cause of A380 Trent 900 engine failure

15-Nov-2010 10:34 AM

Rolls-Royce announced (12-Nov-2010) a regime of engine checks on its Trent 900s in parallel with a rigorous examination of all available evidence from the Qantas A380 incident on 04-Nov-2010 have led the company to draw two key conclusions as to the cause. 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 stated it continues to work closely with the investigating authorities. The 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, Trent 900 customers and the regulators have led to some reductions in aircraft availability. CEO John Rose stated the company is working with Airbus to “progressively bring the whole fleet back into service” (Associated Press, 12-Nov-2010). [more]

  • Rolls-Royce reportedly made running changes to the design and manufacturing standard of the A380s, which has not been implemented on the Qantas A380 engines (The Age, 13-Nov-2010). Airbus COO John Leahy stated the new Trent 900 engines would be included on Qantas’ A380s on order, adding Airbus believes the new engines “will be fine”.
  • Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) stated it does not have the same information to reach the same conclusion as Rolls-Royce (The Age, 13-Nov-2010). ATSB has now downloaded flight and engine performance information from various flight-data recorders on the A380 involved in the issue which has been shared with Airbus and Rolls-Royce (Wall Street Journal, 14-Nov-2010). The cockpit voice recorder does not contain any pilot discussions that took place when the disc inside one of the Trent 900 engines disintegrated, but the bureau expects “elements of the available audio are expected to be of assistance to the investigation”.
  • Airbus Chairman and CEO Thomas Enders stated the fault is expected to affect earnings and A380 deliveries, especially in 2011, due to checks and recommended replacements to some engines (AFP/Reuters, 12-Nov-2010). The scale of delays will depend on the amount of work required to repair the problem. EADS CFO Hans Peter Ring also suggested the remaining deliveries for 2010 could be affected by the issue.
  • Qantas CEO Alan Joyce stated the carrier has no plans to resume A380 services until their safety is assured (Associated Press, 14-Nov-2010). Qantas has been advised by Rolls-Royce that modifications may be required and may have to replace another seven engines (Reuters, 13-Nov-2010/The Age, 15-Nov-2010). The CEO stated the carrier is therefore unable to predict when the aircraft will be in operation again. However, he stated he is pleased with progress Rolls-Royce and Airbus are making on the investigation (AFP, 14-Nov-2010). Spokesperson Tom Woodward stated the carrier hopes to reinstate the aircraft “in days, not weeks” (Bloomberg, 13-Nov-2010). Qantas has no plans to write-off the aircraft affected by the engine explosion. It also remains committed to the A380, of which it plans to take delivery of two within weeks and a further four by mid-2011.
  • Singapore Airlines has also reportedly been advised that up to 20 of the engines may need to be replaced, while Lufthansa will be to replace a further two. Singapore Airlines has resumed operations of one of its three A380 aircraft grounded last week for precautionary engine changes, while a second was expected to resume operations on 13-Nov-2010 (Reuters, 13-Nov-2010). Work on the third A380 is “ongoing”.
  • European Cockpit Association President Martin Chalk stated the A380s are “perfectly safe” to fly, but admitted Qantas must be under some pressure (Associated Press, 14-Nov-2010).

Airbus: “In such a situation, of course, the customer has priority, and the priority is to keep the 39 aircraft flying or back in the air as quickly as possible and I would not rule out some impact on the delivery schedule. I do not know how severe that would be. It is not an incident that makes us or airlines happy but I am absolutely sure, given the positive reception received so far from airlines and passengers ... that the reputation of the aircraft will remain untarnished and increase in years ahead,” Thomas Enders, Chairman and CEO. Source: Reuters, 12-Nov-2010. 

Qantas: “We’re not going to rush anybody, we’re not going to be putting a deadline on it. We’re going to make sure it’s absolutely right before we have this aircraft start flying again. They are proposing a number of different modifications and a number of different changes. So we will be working closely with them to get the aircraft back in the air as soon as we can. There's no timeframe on when that will occur,” Alan Joyce, CEO. Source: Associated Press, 14-Nov-2010.

European Cockpit Association: “But they [Qantas] know it’s not as strong as the pressure of adverse publicity if things go wrong. Another incident would be much more damaging than the current commercial losses,” Martin Chalk, President. Source: Associated Press, 14-Nov-2010.