Qantas considering legal action against Rolls-Royce

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Qantas Airways is in discussions with engine maker Rolls-Royce following the business and operational ramifications of an uncontained failure in a Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine, which forced a Qantas Airbus A380 to make an emergency landing on 4 November.

"Qantas has commenced discussions with Rolls-Royce on a range of issues concerning the A380 fleet, including financial and operational impacts, as a consequence of the Trent 900 engine failure on 4 November 2010, and will also consider legal options," says the Australian carrier.

Following the carrier's submission of a statement of claim, the Federal Court of Australia issued an injunction in favour of Qantas. The injunction ensures that Qantas can pursue legal action against Rolls-Royce in Australia, primarily under the Trade practices act, if a commercial settlement cannot be reached.

"Today's action allows Qantas to keep all options available to the company to recover losses, as a result of the grounding of the A380 fleet and the operational constraints currently imposed on A380 services," says Qantas.

The 4 November incident caused Qantas to ground its A380s for over three weeks. Only on 27 November did the Australian flag carrier resume limited A380 services, but only on routes that do not regularly require the use of maximum engine thrust.

This, it added, was an individual operational decision and not a directive by Airbus or Rolls-Royce.

Qantas says, however, that it is committed to working with the UK engine maker on the Trent 900 inspection programme, in consultation with Airbus and Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority. It also plans to comply with an EASA Airworthiness directive that Trent 900s undergo certain inspections every 20 flying cycles. What's more, it will undertake a "further one-off" inspection of its Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines for "possible tubing defects."

The Qantas announcement follows an Australian Transport and Safety Bureau (ATSB) report that detailed the reasons behind the uncontained Trent 900 failure.

In the first public details about the likely cause of the incident, the ATSB said there was "fatigue cracking" within a stub pipe that feeds oil into the High Pressure (HP)/Intermediate Pressure (IP) bearing structure. This led to an oil leakage, and subsequently an oil fire and the engine failure.

"While the analysis of the engine failure is ongoing, it has been identified that the leakage of oil into the HP/IP bearing structure buffer space, and a subsequent oil fire within that area, was central to the engine failure and IP turbine disc liberation event," it adds.