News Flash! Qantas grounded its fleet of six Airbus A380s today after one of the airline's Superjumbos experienced a flaming engine failure while flying over Indonesia. After the incident, the plane landed safely in Singapore.
Telstar Logistics Senior Air Travel Industry Analyst Brett Snyder thinks there's more to this story than meets the eye. (And given the ugliness of the photos above, that's really saying something.) Brett writes:
An engine failure in itself isn’t usually a major issue. The A380 has four engines, but even twin-engine aircraft are designed to be able to fly safely to an alternate airport on a single engine. In this case, the A380 had three engines left. No big deal, right?
It’s more serious in that it was an uncontained engine failure. A contained failure means that no parts of the engine left the engine casing. But this was an uncontained failure with debris falling to the ground and potentially damaging the airplane along the way. That makes it far more serious. [...]
My guess is that there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about. Maybe Qantas has seen some issues around the engines before and this was the last straw. Maybe there was greater damage to the airplane than is being released to the public at this point. There are a lot of ways to speculate here, but in general, having an engine failure after three years in service is not enough to instantly ground the fleet.
UPDATE: 4 November, 10:15 pm Pacific
Not surprisingly, Brett Snyder got it right. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce now says something is seriously wrong with the deisgn of the A380s Rolls-Royce engines, and it's not Qantas's fault:
"This is an engine issue and the engines have been maintained by Rolls-Royce since they were installed on the aircraft," Joyce said. "We believe this is probably most likely a material failure or some type of design issue. We don't believe this is related to maintenance in any way."
Graphic: National Post