Quantas plane Singapore.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
SINGAPORE — Qantas grounded all six of its Airbus 380 superjumbos after one of them blew out an engine Thursday, shooting flames and debris and forcing an emergency landing in Singapore with 459 people aboard. The carrier said the double-decker Airbus A380 landed safely with no injuries.
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It was most serious midair incident involving the A380, the world's
largest jetliner and latest jetliner, since it made its debut in October
2007 with Singapore Airlines flying it to Sydney — the same route that
Qantas flight QF34 was flying when it was stricken Thursday.
Qantas said there had been no explosion, but witnesses aboard the plane and on the ground reported blasts.
After the plane touched down in Singapore, the engine closest to the fuselage on the left wing had visible burn marks and was missing a section of plate that would have been painted with the red kangaroo logo of the airline. The upper part of the left wing also appeared to have suffered some damage.
Witnesses on the western Indonesian island of Batam, near Singapore, reported hearing a large blast and seeing debris — including a massive red panel with a white Qantas streak — falling onto houses, an elementary school and a nearby shopping mall. No one was injured.
Indonesian police inspected massive chunks of metal the size of emergency exits while others carted away smaller, black twisted panels for future investigations.
The engine trouble happened 15 minutes after takeoff from Singapore at 9:56 a.m. and before the flight had time to approach Indonesia's Mount Merapi, which has erupted freqently over the past 10 days. The plane landed after one hour and 50 minutes.
The flight is a regular service that flies between Sydney, Singapore and London. Qantas' A380s can carry up to 525 people, but flight QF34 was carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew, all of whom were evacuated by a step ladder in an operation that lasted two hours.
Qantas spokeswoman Emma Kearns in Sydney said there were no reports of injuries or an explosion on board. The airline described the problem as an "engine issue" without elaborating.
"We will suspend those A380 services until we are completely confident that Qantas safety requirements have been met," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told a news conference in Sydney.
Joyce appeared to blame the engine, made by Rolls-Royce. "This issue, an engine failure, has been one that we haven't seen before. So we are obviously taking it very seriously, because it is a significant engine failure," he said.
Experts said the problem appeared to be an "uncontained engine failure," which occurs when turbine debris punctures the engine casing and the light cowling that covers the unit.
Rolls-Royce said it was aware of the situation, noting that the investigation was still at an early stage. The incident is likely to raise safety questions about one of the most modern aircraft, which has suffered a series of minor incidents.
Qantas' safety record is enviable among major airlines, with no fatal
crashes since it introduced jet-powered planes in the late 1950s.
there have been a run of scares in recent years across a range of plane
types. The most serious — when a faulty oxygen tank caused an explosion
that blew a 5-foot hole in the fuselage of a Boeing 747-400 over the
Philippines — prompted aviation officials to order Qantas to upgrade
Thursday's incident appeared unrelated to mail bombs sent recently on cargo planes, allegedly from Yemeni militants.