Investigators Believe Oil Fire Caused Engine Explosion
European aviation safety officials believe that an oil fire may have caused the engine explosion on a Qantas Airbus A380 plane last week. The Australian airline says it will keep its fleet grounded for the time being, but Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines say their flights will continue to operate.
For days now, experts have been feverishly searching for the cause of the engine failure of on an Airbus A380 aircraft operated by Australian flagship carrier Qantas. On Thursday, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said after a preliminary investigation that an oil fire may have caused the explosion in the engine last week. The explosion sent a piece of metal shrapnel slicing through the plane's wing and debris hurtling down over Indonesia shortly after the plane's takeoff from Singapore en route to Sydney.
In its latest airworthiness directive, EASA on Thursday called for "repetitive inspections" on A380 aircraft that use the kind of Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines that were involved in the incident, with those checks scheduled as often as once every 10 flights.
EASA said that the investigation indicated that "an oil fire" in part of the engine "may have caused the failure" of the engine's immediate pressure turbine disc. The developments back earlier suspicions by investigators that the turbine disc caused last week's accident. Still, the agency cautioned that it still did not know why the oil had leaked and caused the explosion, suggesting that the circumstances of the accident still haven't been solved. Australian investigators are officially responsible for the probe, but EASA officials said they took on a role because the organization had provided the certification for the turbine engines involved in the incident.
The findings came after investigators discovered oil leaks in several Trent 900 engines. Concerns are now growing that there may be a fundamental problem with Rolls-Royce engines. So far, Airbus has delivered 37 A380 aircraft, of which 20 use the Trent 900 engine. Airlines affected include Qantas as well as Germany's Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.
Lufthansa Says Flights Not Affected by Engine Checks
"Our A380 aircraft will still be grounded for the next 48 hours. At this stage we have no firm update on when the aircraft will be in the air," a Qantas spokeswoman said, according to the Associated Press. Qantas, like other airlines, said the "major" new safety inspection regime would likely disrupt flight schedules further.
Lufthansa stated on Thursday that the new checks called for by EASA would not effect the airline's flight plan because they could be completed within the amount of time the company's A380 aircraft normally spend on the ground between flights. Lufthansa currently operates three A380 aircraft on routes to Tokyo, Beijing and Johannesburg.
Singapore Airlines on Wednesday kept three of its A380 jets grounded after inspectors found oil stains on some of the engines.
Analysts at JPMorgan told the AP they estimated that for each week that Qantas' A380 jets were grounded, it would cost the company 15-20 million Australian dollars (€10.9-€14.6 million) in lost revenues.