Qantas Airways has downplayed two incidents on Boeing 747-400 aircraft following Thursday's uncontained engine failure on QF32, operated by an Airbus A380.
Chief executive Alan Joyce says the airline will not ground its 747 fleet. "The A380 in-flight shutdown... resulted in an uncontained explosion from the aircraft, which caused damage to the wing. That is why we have grounded the fleet," he says.
In the first 747-400 incident on Friday, flight QF6 en route to Sydney from Singapore experienced a contained engine failure in the number one engine and returned safely to Singapore.
"We've seen in-flight shut-downs take place before. They are a liability issue and not a safety issue if they are contained," Joyce says.
Joyce was at pains to differentiate Friday's 747 incident from Thursday's A380 incident, although both aircraft were equipped with Rolls-Royce engines, albeit different models. Trent 900 engines power Qantas' A380s while RB211s power most of the carrier's 747-400s, including the aircraft operating QF6 on Friday.
"The engine on the 747 is an engine we've been operating for over thirty years. It's an engine that we have a lot of experience on. The engines on the A380 are new engines and because they're new we are obviously very cautious about the operation of that aircraft," Joyce says.
Qantas general manager David Epstein says Qantas is operating tonight to Singapore a relief 747-400 aircraft that will have a fifth pod, enabling it to ferry a spare engine to replace the number one engine on the grounded 747 in Singapore. in September, Qantas ferried a fifth engine to San Francisco after another 747-400 engine experienced a "catastrophic failure".
In a separate incident, a Rolls-Royce-powered Qantas 747-400 operating into London Heathrow yesterday experienced a hydraulic pressure problem. Epstein says the aircraft was met by firefighters as per Heathrow's standard operating procedures. Upon its arrival, ground engineers "tightened up the hydraulic hose and turned the aircraft around" for its next flight, says Epstein.