Lessons from QF32 are still being learned five years after a Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine on Qantas Airbus A380 VH-OQA exploded in flight five years ago.
The uncontained engine failure occurred shortly after the flight took off from Singapore bound for Sydney on November 4 2010, with parts of the engine cowling found on the Indonesian island of Batam.
Despite significant structural and systems damage, the crew on board the aircraft – Qantas’s first A380 and named after Australian aviation legend Nancy-Bird Walton – managed to return to Singapore Changi Airport for a safe landing. No passengers or crew were injured. The double-decker superjumbo underwent significant repairs that cost $139 million and took 16 months before it eventually returned to service in April 2012.
Investigators found the failure was a due to a fatigue crack in an oil feed-pipe in the number two Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine of the aircraft. This led to an internal oil leak and fire, with the turbine disc eventually bursting through the engine casing.
The incident prompted A380 operators around the world with the Rolls-Royce engine to conduct checks on their Trent 900s to determine if there were incorrectly manufactured oil feed stub pipes installed.
And following the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation, Rolls-Royce introduced turbine overspeed protection system software that automatically shut down a Trent 900 engine before a turbine disc cold overspeed under specific conditions.
The engine manufacturer also improved their quality management system.
Overall, the ATSB final report made 14 recommendations to stakeholders such as Rolls-Royce, Airbus and the airframe certification authorities the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
On Wednesday, the five-year anniversary of the November 4 2010 incident, the ATSB said in a statement 13 of those recommendations had been adequately addresses, with the one outstanding recommendation relating to “airframe certification standards in the case of an unconfined engine rotor failure”.
The ATSB said the FAA and EASA were “currently working towards incorporating any lessons learned from this accident into their aircraft certification advisory material” and that it had received advice from the US regulator that it was “evaluating recent uncontained engine failure events and updating the uncontained engine debris model”.
“The FAA is evaluating recent uncontained engine failure events, including the 2010 Airbus A380 event in Indonesia, to update the uncontained engine debris model included in FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 20-l 28A, Design Considerations for Minimizing the Hazards Caused by Uncontained Turbine Engine and Auxiliary Power Unit Rotor Failure,” the FAA said in written correspondence to the ATSB.
“Specifically, we are updating the multiple fragment methodology and tool kit referenced in this AC to provide guidance on evaluating design change effectiveness and system routing, and means of compliance that would allow for consideration of shielding.”
Moreover, the FAA told the ATSB it had “tasked China Lake Weapons Center to update the uncontained engine debris model defined in DOT/ FAA/AR- 99/11, Large Engine Uncontained Debris Analysis, and to develop computer modelling of more recent uncontained engine failures to reflect in-service events”.
“DOT/FAA/AR- 04/16, Uncontained Engine Debris Analysis Using the Uncontained Engine Debris Damage Assessment Model, will also be revised to highlight tool kit and runtime improvements available today,” the FAA said.
The FAA said it expected these tasks to be completed by the end of July 2016.