What the Qantas crew had left to fly with

An Airbus information telex (AIT) to all A380 operators was dispatched by the manufacturer on 17 November informing them, basically, of what the crew of flight QF32 had to deal with when their No 2 Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine suffered an uncontained engine failure.

Provided to Flight International by an industry source, the AIT is intended to inform operators about what systems remained operational despite the extensive damage to the airframe, particularly the wing close to the leading edge near the engine. This is what the AIT says:

“This AIT has been approved for release by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) who leads the on-going ICAO Annex 13 investigation.

“The second R-R inspection program applicable to the Trent 900 engine family and covered by EASA Engine Airworthiness Directive has been published allowing continuous operations of the fleet. Together with its partners, Airbus is providing support to the operators for engine logistics to minimize interruptions to the fleet.

“One single high energy fragment [see graphic] is considered from a certification requirement viewpoint. The damage assessment has established that the intermediate pressure turbine (IPT) disc released three different high energy fragments, resulting in some structural and systems damage, with associated ECAM warnings. Therefore the crew had to manage a dynamic situation.

“Despite the situation, amongst the various available systems supporting the crew to operate the aircraft and return safely to Singapore were:

  • “The flaps remained available (slats were jammed retracted);
  • “All flight control surfaces remained available on the pitch and yaw axis
  • Roll control was ensured through the following controls: (a) on the left wing: inner aileron, spoilers 1, 3, 5 and 7; (b) on the right wing: mid and inner ailerons, spoilers 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7.
  • “Flight control law reverted to Alternate Law due to the loss of the slats and of some roll control surfaces. Normal Law was kept on longitudinal and lateral axes.
  • “Flight envelope protection was still active.
  • “The autopilot was kept engaged [during approach] until about 700ft on radio altimeter, at which time the crew took over manually. Flight Directors were ON.
  • “Manual control of engines 1, 3 & 4 was maintained till aircraft stop.
  • “Landing in Singapore took place about 1 hour 40 minutes after the engine 2 failure with flaps in configuration 3.
  • “Normal braking was available on both body landing gears with antiskid, and alternate braking without antiskid on both wing landing gears. The crew modulated braking in order to stop close to emergency services.
  • “The reason engine No 1 could not be shut down after the aircraft came to a stop, has been determined: Two segregated wiring routes were cut by 2 out of the 3 individual units of disc debris.”

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One Response to What the Qantas crew had left to fly with

  1. David Connolly 21 November, 2010 at 12:41 am #

    On November 4th 2010, QF-32 day I flew as a pax for my first voyage on an A-380, EK-073, A6-EDF from OMDB to LFPG. What I was most impressed with apart from the Emirates service and ICE system of Info, Comm and Entertainment, was the quiet spaciousness and last and not least, being very impressed with the W/C.
    I have never drained the vain at contrailing altitude looking out a window looking down on #3 & 4 powerplants. Upon return to my seat, I noticed some other pax were looking somewhat quizzical and pointing to their screens at a news item. “Stricken Qantas A-380 makes emergency landing in Singapore”, I yawned, “Stricken is like media drama devaluation to hyperinflation like hero to describe anyone with no choice” and went back to listening to GP Telemann and GF Handel and watched the tail fin camera looking ahead across the yawning desert wastes of Mesopotamia.
    I stand corrected, “stricken” was actually very apt and accurate. Rolls Royce don’t stop rolling too often generally and uncontained failures, while very rare, are generally historically the preserve of GE/CFM with their N1 RPM % primary thrust setting and fairly unheard of, pardon the pun, in Engine Pressure Ratio/EPR primary thrust setting high bypass ratio powerplants, as in RR/P&W. EPR, really gives a macro picture of what the micro N1, 2 and RR N3 are really feeling. This is Normal mode, ALTN mode uses N1. The Electronic Engine Control/EEC automatically selects ALTN mode using reverse thrust due to unreliable EPR sensing.
    Perhaps QF-32 was the exception that makes the EPR rule ?, like every metric associated with the A-380, this failure was impressive in velocity and scale and illustrates that no matter how foolproof system segregation appears in theory, a better fool will roll along in practice sooner or later, a premature N3 ejection in this case. QF-32 in one word ?, humbling !