Quantas ground all Airbuses after engine explosion

By Michael Mckeand

The remains of one of Flight QF32s engines after a mid-air explosion meant it had to make an emergency landing in Changi Airport, Singapore

Quantas last night grounded their fleet of six A380 Airbuses after an explosion ripped apart an engine on flight QF32.

The aircraft was six minutes into its flight from Singapore to Sydney and was at 6000 feet. It was flying over the Indonesian island of Batam when parts of the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine ripped through the wing of the plane.

Ulf Waschbusch, one of the passengers on the flight, told journalists there was a boom and “a little bit of fire”.

“Something ruptured the left-wing; it was a small rupture,” the Singapore-based technology executive said. “Everyone was surprisingly calm on the plane. We were not going crazy at all.”

He continued by saying, “The crew helped tremendously. I felt in good hands. Qantas did a great job in keeping us safe.”

The aircraft landed safely at 11.46am back in Singapore but damage in the wiring meant engineers were initially unable to get near the damaged engine. Five hours later, the passengers were escorted to coaches ready to take them to Singapore hotels.

Debris also hit Batam City in various locations including the roof of an elementary school, but watching students all escaped injury. Principal Sarifah Masnawati said, “We heard an explosion and students and teachers ran outside where we saw the plane circling. ”

“We got all the children back into the school because there were pieces of metal falling in the grounds, the biggest one or two kilos.”

“Thank God there were no victims.”

Concerns that the incident was caused by volcanic ash from the Mount Merapi eruptions,  have been downplayed by Indonesian aviation authorities.

Quantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said the airline were working with Airbus and Rolls-Royce in investigating the reason behind the incident and to ensure there were no problems with the other A380s in the Quantas fleet.

Mr Joyce denies any problems with the maintenance of the aircraft. “This is an aircraft that is relatively new, this aircraft is only two years of age, these engines are new engines,” he said. “So this is not a maintenance issue, this is actually an issue with the manufacture of the aircraft or the engines.” He was also full of praise for the flight and cabin crew stating that they did “a fantastic job” handling the incident. He also added that Quantas still retained the lowest rate of engine failures in the industry.

Peter Marosszeky, a senior visiting fellow of the University of NSW‘s department of aviation, said photographs of the plane suggested a massive internal failure of the engine, possibly a gas generator, turbine or bearing. He Said, “this type of incident has been seen previously, but it was a long time ago and with much older planes than the A380.

As a result, Quantas have grounded all their A380s, three in Los Angeles, one in Sydney and one in Frankfurt. Singapore Airlines though have stated that they will continue to fly their eleven A380s, despite Mr Joyce’s warnings that the explosion was an issue for all operators of the aircraft.

Investigations into the incident are ongoing.