Qantas will resume limited Airbus A380 operations to Singapore and London from November 27 after what it calls an “intensive” inspection program for the aircraft’s Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines.
“Together with the engine and aircraft manufacturers and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Qantas is now satisfied that it can begin reintroducing A380s to its international network progressively,” the airline said in a November 23 statement.
Qantas says two of its A380 fleet, which it grounded following the November 4 uncontained failure of a Trent 900 on A380 VH-OQA operating QF32, will return to service this week. Both of these aircraft are currently in Los Angeles, and will be ferried to Sydney before entering service, with the first due to depart Los Angeles on 2300 local time on November 22. It will operate the first A380 service since the grounding, QF31 from Sydney to London via Singapore, on Saturday.
“The engines on this aircraft, the first aircraft to depart, two of the engines are new engines to the aircraft,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said. “So we have replaced the engines and put these new engines onto the aircraft. We have also put in additional conditions and restrictions that Qantas is applying.”
Continues Qantas’s statement, “In line with its conservative approach to operational safety, Qantas is voluntarily suspending A380 services on routes that regularly require use of maximum certified engine thrust and will do so until further operational experience is gained or possible additional changes are made to engines.” This means the airline will not resume trans Pacific service to Los Angeles for an as yet undetermined period of time.
”We want to make sure that we’re 100 per cent sure of the aircraft before we put them on the LA route, which requires this extra use of thrust,” Joyce said.
According to Qantas, “This is an operational decision by Qantas and pilots still have access to maximum certified thrust if they require it during flight. It is not a manufacturer’s directive.”
CASA says that Qantas submitted to it a “detailed” A380 plan that sets out how the aircraft will be operated, additional safety measures and required inspections.
“The decision by Qantas to ground the A380 fleet after the Singapore incident on 4 November 2010 was correct and was supported by CASA,” said CASA director of aviation safety John McCormick.
“Qantas provided CASA with extensive documentation to support the plan, as well as a number of briefings by key personnel. CASA has looked at how Qantas will be carrying out the additional inspections of the Trent 900 engines, changes to the way the engines will be operated and how Rolls Royce service bulletins will be met.”
At the time of the QF32 incident Qantas had six A380s in service, and the airline says it now expects to take delivery of a further two A380s before the end of 2010 and a further two in early 2011.
VH-OQA remains in Singapore as the ATSB’s official investigations continue, and Qantas has not yet put a timeframe on when it can be repaired and returned to service, while, the airline says, “The remaining aircraft already in the fleet will be returned to service once Qantas, the manufacturers and regulators are completely satisfied that it is safe to do so.”
But only four aircraft, two of them the new deliveries, are expected to be in service for the Christmas peak.