Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rolls-Royce Trent 900 on the prototype Airbus ... Singapore Air Replaces A380 Engines

SINGAPORE—Singapore Airlines Ltd. said Wednesday that three of its 11 A380 super jumbos were flying back to Singapore to have their Rolls-Royce Group PLC Trent 900 engines replaced after an engine blowout on a Qantas Airways Ltd. A380 last week.

"They are en route to Singapore as we speak. They are flying without passengers," said Nicholas Ionides, the carrier's vice president for public affairs.

A Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 standing at a gate of the international terminal of Sydney airport on Wednesday. He said that the three planes had been grounded in London, Melbourne and Sydney.

Singapore Air's decision to replace the engines was another setback for Airbus and Rolls-Royce after the midair failure of one Trent 900 engine on a Qantas A380 flying from Singapore to Sydney last Thursday.

But other airlines with orders for the A380 said they had no plans of canceling or deferring their A380 orders.

"I don't see this damaging the image of the A380. It is painful for Rolls Royce and their new engine [Trent 900], but if they rectify the problem quickly, the damage will be contained," said Peter Harbison, executive chairman of the Sydney-based Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, an aviation think tank.

The move comes as investigators probe more deeply into the Qantas incident and refine measures needed to fix the Trent 900 engines. Rolls Royce said Monday that it had made progress in understanding the cause of the mid-air Trent blowout.

Singapore Air said in a statement it would "be carrying out precautionary engine changes on three A380s," following the Qantas incident.

"We apologize to our customers for flight disruptions that may result and we seek their understanding," the statement said.

Mr. Ionides said he didn't know when the planes would return to service and that it was too early to give an estimate of the financial cost to the carrier.

"Rolls-Royce has recommended further detailed inspections of three engines as a result of oil staining. This is to ensure that the cause of the oil staining can be determined," he said.

Qantas last week grounded its fleet of six A380 jetliners after a Sydney-bound aircraft suffered an engine failure that sent debris flying over the skies of Indonesia and forced the plane, carrying 466 passengers and crew, to return to Singapore for an emergency landing.

Qantas said Monday that it had narrowed the investigation into A380 engine problems to the possibility of an oil leakage but said other areas of the engine remain under investigation.

Malaysian Airline System Bhd. said it will keep its order for six A380s for now. The planes will be powered by Trent 900 engines.

"At this point, it is premature to speculate on the actual cause of the engine failure. As such, we have no plans to either defer the A380, or re-evaluate our choice of engine," said Chief Executive Azmil Zahruddin.

The national carrier expects its first A380 delivery in the first half of 2012.

Mr. Azmil said the airline will monitor the situation "very closely" and is "in touch with the manufacturers."

Thai Airways International PCL, with six A380s on order to be powered by the Trent 900 engines, said nothing has changed regarding its order. Montree Jumrieng, managing director of Thai's technical department, said the airline is waiting for the official report on the incident on the Qantas plane. All six planes are scheduled for delivery in 2012 and 2013.

Korean Air Lines Co. has 10 A380s on order, with five of them scheduled to arrive in 2011 and another five due until 2014. The carrier is not using Rolls-Royce engines.

A China Southern Airlines Co. spokesman said if nothing goes wrong, it expects delivery of the first of five A380 jets in the second half of 2011. He did not specify the engine type.

—Daniel Michaels in Brussels contributed to this article.
Write to Costas Paris at

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