Rolls stuck dumb over Qantas Trents

I sent the following message to Rolls-Royce’s director of corporate affairs Peter Morgan. Seven hours later I have yet to receive an acknowledgement of my message, let alone an answer:

Dear Peter

John Leahy (Airbus) has recently made numerous statements about Qantas’ Trent engines, including this: “In the future the computer will have software that can identify a problem at the outset and it will shut down an engine before a turbine disc can go out of control and come apart.’

Can R-R please confirm, or deny, or explain?

Best regards

David Learmount

Operations & Safety Editor




4 Responses to Rolls stuck dumb over Qantas Trents

  1. nikos 14 December, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    Are you sure that Mt Morgan is still in post?

    After his recent gaffes he is probably spending more time with his family.

  2. PIETRASIK Jerome 16 December, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    Dear Mr. LEARMOUNT,

    At the very beginning of the near QF32 disaster, I mailed a number
    of questions to Mark Alflatt, Director of Financial Communications at
    Rolls Royce, all of them very similar to yours….

    All I was sent is a very polite answer saying, to make it short, ” RR is not
    mum ” and ” please feel free to come back to me directly ” if any other
    info requested…

    I felt exactly the same way as you : very very frustrated to put things
    I do want to congratulate you for your splendid work I’ve been following during the past 40 years. You can be proud of your impressive non partisan work.

    Jerome PIETRASIK,
    SWISSAIR capt., retired.

  3. Peter Bore 16 December, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    Dear David,

    If a patient consults a surgeon and is advised to have an operation then the surgeon must tell the patient everything that a reasonable person might wish to know about the risks and benefits of the procedure and must answer any questions that patient has. If the patient comes to any harm then he has grounds for suing the surgeon even though the harm may have in no way been the fault of the surgeon – the grounds for suing are simply that the patient was not told of something which might have influenced the decision to have the operation.

    The duty of disclosure is not, as far as I am aware, contained in statute law but derives from common law. However you and I are not customers of Rolls Royce so Rolls Royce do not have a duty to tell you all they know – though in my view I cannot understand why they do not because their failure to be open simply invites the suspicion that they have something to hide. But we could be customers of Qantas.

    So perhaps you should book a Qantas flight which is scheduled to be operated by an A380 and then ask Qantas to disclose all they know about Trent 900 problems both from their own experience and from what they have been told by Rolls Royce. I will watch your blog with bated breath.

    As an aside, Qantas seem to be taking a fairly combative stance towards Rolls Royce. That seems a bit surprising in an industry which has a reputation for co-operating on matters of safety. Perhaps it is more for the benefit of the Australian public than for Rolls Royce. The Australian media have been giving Qantas a hard time recently by reporting any and every problem Qantas has including those which have no safety implications such as failure of the undercarriage to retract after take off and the most recent, under the headline of more problems for Qantas passengers, was to inform the world that a baggage conveyor had broken down with the result that some passengers luggage had not been loaded.

    However, I did once get off a plane in December at a windswept airport in the North of England still wearing the t-shirt I had worn when boarding the plane in a Brisbane summer to discover that my suitcase containing sweaters and anoraks was still somewhere en route. I guess that might have had fatal consequences!


  4. David Nicholas 17 December, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    Peter Bore’s comments are spot on. A lot of what Qantas is saying is intended for domestic consumption, perhaps forgetting that these days there is no such thing! It is also possibly intended to put pressure upon Rolls Royce to adequately compensate them without resorting to the courts (which would take longer and generate ongoing adverse publicity for both parties).
    In a wider perspective, are we forgetting that aero-engines are technological marvels with extremely good relaibility records? Look back through the history of British aero-engines and there were some engines (the RR Vulture of the late 1930s, Napier Sabre of the early 1940′s and Bristol Proteus of the 1950′s for example) where the technical challenges presented to the engineers represented a continuous uphill struggle with weight and reliability in constant opposition to thrust and fuel consumption. Even the famous Merlin went through a rough patch in the 1940s , with a skew gear weakness causing many an engine to stop dead witjhout any warning. Much of this did not reach the public conciousness at the time because of wartime censorship, but there was a also a public naivety which has now gone.
    RR deserve support in their commercial and technical battle with their north american rivals. They are clearly doing everything that they can to put things right, but a broadly critical and unsupportive press undermines their efforts.
    All I want to hear from RR is an acknowledgement that something went wrong with their engineering or that of a subcontractor and with RRs quality control (the stub pipe issue) and that the issue has been corrected. Clearly they don’t want to say anything that may be perceived as a hostage to fortune but if they have faith in their product perhaps they should say so clearly and unequivocally.