Qantas Airways Ltd., Australia’s largest carrier, juggled aircraft to maintain schedules after a second engine flameout in as many days, as it continues safety checks of its grounded Airbus SAS A380 fleet.
Today’s Sydney-London flight, normally an A380 plane, will begin on an “alternative aircraft” for the first leg to Singapore and a British Airways Plc jetliner will complete the journey, Qantas said in a statement. A 747’s return to Singapore yesterday after an engine failure was “unrelated” to the engine explosion on an A380 a day earlier, spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said by phone today.
Qantas is working with Rolls-Royce Group Plc to check its six grounded A380s, which represent about 17 percent of its international capacity, before deciding whether to return them to service. The airline has been using some of its 27 Boeing jumbo jets to replace those Airbus planes.
“It was like the afterburner of a fighter jet,” said Andrew Jenkins, 43, a passenger who is based in London and was flying to Sydney on the 747 yesterday for work. “The captain explained that the problem was contained. He shut the engine down and it didn’t look like anything beyond that.”
The pilot of the Boeing Co. jet, which departed Singapore as flight QF6 bound for Sydney yesterday with 412 passengers on board, shut down one engine after flames erupted shortly after takeoff, dumped fuel and flew for about an hour before landing, Wirth said. Engineers are inspecting the plane.
Qantas flight QF32, an A380 carrying 466 passengers and crew, returned to Singapore for an emergency landing on Nov. 4 after one of its Trent 900 engines blew out.
While both problems involved Rolls-Royce engines, the incidents were “entirely unrelated” and they were serviced by different shops in Australia and Germany, Wirth said. No passengers from QF32 were on yesterday’s 747 flight, she said.
A spokesman at the Rolls-Royce civil aerospace business in Derby, England, said he couldn’t immediately comment.
Anaita Talkhan, 40, a Sydney resident and passenger on the 747, said flight attendants told everyone to get into emergency landing positions.
“There was a quick flash of light and I could hear ‘brace, brace, brace’ from one side and ‘head down, head down, head down,’ from the other,” she said. “After that the captain came on line and asked everyone to stay calm. He said an engine had overheated and we have three perfectly good ones otherwise.”
Jim Proulx, a Boeing spokesman in Seattle, said the company doesn’t typically comment on operational issues, and referred calls to Qantas.
The engine involved in the Nov. 4 A380 incident had what appeared to be an “uncontained failure,” where pieces of debris were flung out at high speed, piercing the casing, or nacelle, Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said yesterday. A design flaw or material failure was probably to blame, he said.
The company’s A380s may return to service before the end of the weekend if checks by Qantas and Rolls-Royce clear the engines for use, Joyce said.
Rolls-Royce shares fell 4.9 percent to 591 pence yesterday, adding to a 5 percent slide on Nov. 4. The company has lost 1.2 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) of market value since the first Qantas incident.
Qantas shares dropped 1 percent to A$2.86 ($2.91) yesterday.
There’s no suggestion of foul play in the A380 explosion, said Ian Sangston, general manager of aviation safety investigations at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
“Engine shutdowns do happen,” said Hans Weber, chief executive officer of Tecop International, an aviation firm in San Diego. “Except for uncontained failures, engine shutdowns don’t normally get any attention. Airplanes are all certificated to be able to fly with one engine out.”
Passengers on the grounded 747 said they’ll think twice about flying with Qantas again.
“We all panicked,” said Jeremy Lee, who was heading to Queenstown, New Zealand, on vacation. “I could smell fumes and there was some shouting and noise. Qantas hasn’t said when we’ll fly again, but I’m tired of this. I won’t fly with them and I’m asking for a refund. I am only 35 and I have a long way to go.”