There is rightfully much attention as to when Qantas will resume A380 operations across the Pacific to Los Angeles. The route in its duopoly heyday was a huge financial boon for the carrier and the A380 remains in the spotlight following the November uncontained engine failure.
The fact is, as some more frequent readers will know, Qantas could resume flying with the A380 across the Pacific today.
Of course, there’s a caveat.
The airline could only use A380s with C mod Trent 900 engines, and not the two earlier A mod and B mod versions.
But even then, the C mod would, on Rolls-Royce’s instructions, be restricted to performing only 75 take-offs. After that the engine would need to be replaced. Those economics would turn a bean counter to mush.
To prevent using a 75-cycle-only engine that would cost, at some off-hand estimates, $685,333 per flight, Rolls-Royce says Qantas should use a thrust derate. That derate, however, makes the LAX route unprofitable.
Qantas and Rolls-Royce have a long relationship, even if right now it is strained to the point Qantas took Rolls-Royce to court in fear of being blocked from receiving damage compensation.
It would be excessive in anyone’s book for Qantas to use engines only 75 times, plus Rolls-Royce is facing a replacement shortage.
So the question is not when the Trent 900 can fly across the Pacific but rather when the engine will have a critical fix to solve the thrust problem. That is being watched not only by Qantas, the sole 72,000lb thrust operator, but carriers eyeing more powerful Trent 900s, in part for when the high gross weight A380s come on line.