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July 28, 2017

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Australian body faults Rolls-Royce over explosion of Qantas engine

SINGAPORE/CANBERRA -- Rolls-Royce repeatedly failed to identify a defect that caused one of its engines to explode on a Qantas Airways flight carrying more than 400 people over Indonesia three years ago, an Australian safety regulator found.

In its final report on the incident, the Australian Safety Transport Bureau (ASTB) said the company missed multiple opportunities to detect the faulty component which almost certainly would have caused the Airbus A380 to crash had it not been for the exceptional skill of the pilots.

It was the first major safety scare to affect the A380, and led to Qantas suspending its operation of the aircraft for around three weeks. The ASTB report could lead to broader requirements for new aircraft certification around the world.

"Those opportunities were missed for a number of reasons, but generally because of ambiguities within the manufacturer's procedures and the non-adherence by a number of the manufacturing staff to those procedures," the report said on Thursday.

The four-engine A380 was on flying from Singapore to Sydney with 433 passengers and 26 crew on board when one of its engines blew up, spraying the plane with shrapnel and dropping chunks of debris on Indonesia's Batam island.

A large section of turbine disc crashed into a house, but there were no injuries to anyone either on the plane or on the ground.

The pilots returned to Singapore and landed with limited controls, stopping just 150 meters before the end of the runway with four blown tires, brakes heated to 900 degrees Celsius and fuel leaking to the ground.

Pilot skill likely averted a disaster as the plane suffered a series of systems problems after engine fragments ripped through the wing, puncturing fuel, hydraulic and electronic systems.

After the incident, Rolls-Royce found that a large number of the defective component — the support assemblies manufactured with pipes that feed oil into the engine bearing — did not conform to design specifications. The parts came from a facility in the United Kingdom.

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