Rolls-Royce has broken its low media profile following the inflight failure of one of its Trent 900 engines on Qantas A380 VH-OQA operating QF32 last week to report that “progress” has been made “in understanding the cause of the engine failure”, saying it is now clear the incident is specific to the Trent 900 series only.
“As a result, a series of checks and inspections has been agreed with Airbus, with operators of the Trent 900 powered A380, and with the airworthiness authorities,” Rolls-Royce said in a statement released on November 8. “These are being progressively completed which is allowing a resumption of operation of aircraft in full compliance with all safety standards. We are working in close cooperation with Airbus, our customers and the authorities, and as always safety remains our highest priority.”
The engine manufacturer says that the failure of a Trent 1000 on a test bed in August this year is “unconnected” to the QF32 failure, noting that that incident “happened during a development program with an engine operating outside normal parameters. We understand the cause [of the Trent 1000 failure] and a solution has been implemented.”
The Rolls-Royce statement came after Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told media on Monday that inspections had revealed oil leaks “beyond normal tolerances” in three Trent 900s after they had been inspected following the QF32 incident.
But the problem appears specific to the Qantas A380 fleet. Singapore Airlines has completed inspections of the Trent 900 engines on its A380 fleet, reporting no problems had been found. “We completed engine inspections on all 11 of our A380 aircraft and did not find anything of concern,” a SIA spokesman told news agency AFP in a statement on Monday. The third airline to operate Trent powered A380s, Lufthansa, also reported on Monday that it too had inspected the engines on its three A380s and had found nothing of concern.
Interestingly, Qantas A380s are fitted with 72,000lb thrust Trent 972s, compared to the 70,000lb thrust Trent 970s on SIA’s and Lufthansa’s aircraft.
But Joyce told media “the only differences between the engines are actually the power rating of the engines which is actually not a physical difference in the engines. It’s what the engine manufacturer has sold to the airlines to allow them to actually operate to higher levels of power. And so ours is a slightly higher level of power than Singapore and Lufthansa. And one of the things we are looking at is whether those operational considerations we’re having at a higher level of power has actually contributed to this. But I have to say, again, the aircraft is certified – and the engine is certified – to operate to those higher levels of power.”
Meanwhile, the ATSB reports that a recovered engine component from QF32 has arrived at Rolls-Royce’s UK facilities in Derby “for a detailed technical examination under ATSB supervision.That examination is planned to commence when additional ATSB technical expertise arrives in Derby on Tuesday 9 November 2010.”
The ATSB reported on Monday that its examination VH-OQA in Singapore is continuing, including mapping the damage to the aircraft as a result of the uncontained engine failure.
“Once finalised, that damage map may assist the investigation, the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee and Batam Island authorities to localise the search for the remainder of the engine component on the island.”
Continued the ATSB statement, “In addition, the number 2 engine and surrounds were prepared for the engine’s removal from the aircraft. A comprehensive plan for that removal was developed with expert assistance from the engine and aircraft manufacturer members of the investigation team.”
A Qantas A380 pilot was also due to arrive in Canberra on Monday to help ATSB investigators, who are examining information from the aircraft’s flight data recorders. “The [investigators] will examine the cockpit indications leading up to the engine failure, and the aircraft operational aspects of the failure and subsequent recovery to Singapore.”
The ATSB also expects to interview QF32’s flightcrew “in the next few days”.