by editor | 4th November 2010 8:26 am
The Australian airline Qantas has grounded its six-strong fleet of Airbus A380 airliners after one of the superjumbos made an emergency landing.
Qantas flight QF32 experienced engine trouble shortly after taking off from Singapore on its way to Sydney.One of the engines “exploded with a loud bang” and the plane started shaking, a passenger told the BBC.Pieces of debris believed to be from an aircraft were found on the nearby Indonesian island of Batam. Qantas said the plane, with 433 passengers and 26 crew on board, experienced an “engine issue” over western Indonesia shortly after taking off from Singapore time at about 1000 (0200 GMT).”It’s a significant engine failure,” Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said at a news conference.”We do take our safety reputation and our safety standards unbelievably seriously. And we’re not going to take any risks with passenger safety – and as a precaution, we’re suspending the flights of the A380 aircraft until we’re comfortable that we understand the reasons for this.”No-one was injured during the incident, which ended at Singapore’s Changi airport.Smoke billowed from the aircraft, which was surrounded by fire engines after it had landed.One of the engines was blackened and its rear casing was missing.Engine blackened”I was on the plane right next to engine two, which exploded with a loud bang within the first 10-15 minutes of take-off,” Lars Sandberg – a DJ who was travelling to Sydney to begin a music tour of Australia – told the BBC.”I thought that something had fallen down in cargo underneath the plane, but the plane started shaking… I’m a little bit shaken up. I travel a lot and this is the first big scare I’ve had.”The captain did a good job though in reassuring us, making announcements every few minutes.”One eyewitness quoted by AFP news agency spoke of seeing a “little bit of fire” coming from the stricken engine.Passengers said the pilot spent at least an hour and a half circling in order to use up fuel ahead of the emergency landing. They said the landing itself was smooth.”When we got off and saw the engine itself and the back casing burnt off, that was pretty scary,” Mr Sandberg said.”I’m just happy to be alive and safe in the terminal building.”On the Indonesian island of Batam, witnesses said they heard an explosion as the plane flew overhead.”There were metal shards coming down from the sky into an industrial area in Batam,” eyewitness Noor Kanwa told the AFP agency.The BBC’s Nick Bryant in Sydney says aviation experts have identified the debris as part of a Qantas engine casing, but that the airline has not confirmed this.Qantas said the grounding of its A380 fleet would be followed by a full investigation.But Singapore Airlines, which runs 11 A380 aircraft, said it had no plans to follow Qantas in grounding the fleet.Qantas had no immediate comment on whether the incident might be related to eruptions of Indonesia’s Mount Merapi over the past 10 days – which have prompted some flights above the volcano to be suspended.Flagship airlinerThis incident is a worrying development for Qantas, an airline which prides itself on an exemplary safety record.It is also alarming for the aircraft’s manufacturer Airbus, correspondents say.The A380, which made its maiden flight in 2007, is the flagship of the European aviation giant’s fleet.The result of a long and costly research programme, it made its first commercial flight in 2007. It is the world’s largest passenger airliner, a double-decker which can carry up to 800 people – though Qantas A380s are set up to carry about 450.Airbus hopes the plane is winning a reputation as quiet, economical and safe.A spokesman for Rolls-Royce, the British firm which made the plane’s engines, told Dow Jones Newswires that it would “work with Qantas to identify what the problem is”.
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