R-R powered A380 airlines review their crisis options

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Qantas remains resolute in its decision to keep its A380 fleet grounded until Rolls-Royce produces a "fix" for the faulty Trent 900 engine component that caused uncontained failure of the entire power unit.

The Australian flag carrier says in a formal statement: "Qantas is continuing the forensic inspection of its Trent 900 engines in line with all airworthiness directive and R-R requirements. We will not re-commence A380 operations until we are 100% confident that it is safe and appropriate to do so."

Informally, Qantas has explained: "Qantas has grounded its A380 fleet and will not operate its existing fleet until a Rolls-Royce fix is in place."

Meanwhile, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines, the other current operators of R-R-powered A380s, are continuing to fly their aircraft according to instructions issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency, which permits operation subject to a strict engine inspection regime.

A problem the A380 operators face is that there are insufficient spare engines to replace those that inspections revealed needed repair. R-R and all three airlines are reluctant to be specific about numbers in a situation that is subject to change, but Lufthansa is known to have replaced one Trent 900 for a reason unrelated to the QF32 event, and another for a related reason.

Singapore Airlines is known to have taken three engines off-wing, and this is believed to be related. While Qantas retains its no-fly policy, and is known to have removed three powerplants, the number of its A380 engines that are unserviceable is, at least in the short term, irrelevant to it.

Airbus says it is working hard to find Trent 900s from a number of sources including its own assembly line, where it could de-mount engines from future A380 deliveries to each of the three airlines and deliver them to their engineering bases.

In the past seven days the "Plane Talking" blog posted on its website a series of leaked photographs of the damage to the Qantas A380 airframe. It was already known that the damage had been extensive, but the photographs, taken by Airbus engineers working with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau as part of the investigation process, emphasised how extensive the damage had been.

By default they also show that the A380 has an impressive degree of damage-tolerance. Apparently to emphasise this, the day the photographs went up on the web, Airbus sent a telex to all A380 operators essentially to describe what systems the Qantas crew still had available to them to bring the aircraft back safely to land.

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