Australian airline Qantas has grounded its entire fleet of A380 aircraft following an incident on one of its superjumbos.
Flight QF32 was en route from Singapore to Sydney when it experienced engine trouble and had to make an emergency landing in Singapore. Debris thought to be from the stricken flight was found in an industrial area on the nearby Indonesian island of Batam.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce confirmed the incident and told a news conference “It’s a significant engine failure. 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.”
None of the 433 passengers or 26 crew members on board were injured in the incident and the aircraft landed safely at Singapore’s Changi airport after the pilot spent an hour and a half circling to discharge fuel before it could make the emergency landing.
Passengers praised the captain who they said kept them informed every few minutes as to what was going on, and said all staff did an excellent job in trying to reassure them.
Eye witness statements claim that one of the engines ‘exploded with a loud bang’ and the plane started shaking, whilst another reported seeing a ‘little bit of fire’ coming from the damaged engine. Further reports claim that there was a hole in the wing, and that one wing had ‘broken’ but neither of these have been confirmed.
Passengers were shaken but happy to be alive following the incident and were shocked to see the damaged engine and burnt casing when they disembarked.
Witnesses in Batam claim to have heard an explosion as the plane flew overhead and reported shards of metal falling from the sky. According to BBC News sources in the area, these have been confirmed as parts of the damaged aircraft.
A team of air crash investigators from Airbus have arrived in Singapore to help with the investigation and a spokesperson for rose-Royce who built the plane’s Trent 900 engines will work closely with them to identify what the problem was.
Early indications suggest that the mid-air blow out was likely to have been caused by faulty design or material failure and Qantas stressed that the engine had been maintained by Rose Royce since being fitted and believed it was not a maintenance issue. This is still yet to be confirmed.