After grounding the entire fleet of the Airbus A380s, Qantas is now threatening to sue Rolls Royce over the fault in the engines after safety investigators identified a potentially “catastrophic” problem with the turbine.
The Australian airline grounded the six aircrafts following an incident on November 4, when one of its superjumbos carrying 469 passengers on board, was forced to make an emergency landing after one of its four engines disintegrated mid air.
15 minutes after the plane left Singapore for Sydney, passengers heard a loud bang and debris was strewn across Indonesia from the Trent 900 engine.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau conducted an investigation and pinpointed the cause of the engine’s disintegration as fatigue cracking on the engine feed pipe. Investigators say this was due to part of the pipe being misaligned.
“This condition could lead to an elevated risk of fatigue crack initiation and growth, oil leakage and potential catastrophic engine failure from a resulting oil fire,” the Australian investigation has found.
They told the British engine manufacturer to “address the safety issue and take actions necessary to ensure the safety of flight operations in transport aircraft equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent 900 series engines.”
The Australian investigators’ full report is expected to be released today (Friday) and there is speculation that it will reveal that more than 50 warnings of system failures reached the cockpit and that the engine explosion triggered a series of further failures on the aircraft.
Qantas is one of three airlines to use the Trent 900 on its A380s and of the 37 A380s currently in the air, 20 are equipped with the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine.
Legal experts have predicted that Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Airbus could join Qantas in seeking compensation.
“Ultimately, Rolls Royce may well consider that a global settlement deal is the best option at this stage to limit any further damage to its brand,” said Hannah Clipston, a partner at the law firm Thomas Eggar LLP.
Rolls Royce declined to comment on Qantas’s legal move, however they said: “We have instituted a regime of inspection, maintenance and removal which has assured safe operation. This programme has been agreed in collaboration with Airbus, our airline customers and the regulators”.