Thursday, 18 September 2014
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Airbus and Rolls-Royce help investigate aircraft failure

Airbus and Rolls-Royce are helping investigate the engine failure that forced a Qantas Airways aircraft to make an emergency landing in Singapore earlier today.

The Australian airline has grounded its fleet of Airbus A380s after problems with one of the aircrafts’ Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines occurred shortly after take-off.

Eyewitnesses interviewed by the BBC said the engine exploded with a loud bang and that pieces of debris were discovered beneath the aircraft’s flight path.

According to Qantas, the aircraft landed safely and there were no injuries to any passengers or crew.

Singapore Airlines has also delayed flights of its fleet of Airbus A380s in order to carry out ‘precautionary technical checks’, said the company’s vice-president of public affairs, Nicholas Ionides.

A statement from Rolls-Royce said: ‘The in service fleet of Trent 900 engines is small and relatively new, and the Group feels that it is prudent to recommend that a number of basic precautionary engine checks are performed. This process is now underway.’

This is the second time an A380 engine has failed mid-flight in its three-year operating history, following an incident with a Singapore Airlines craft in September last year.

Other airlines that operate the aircraft include Emirates, Air France and Lufthansa but some use engines built by GE Aircraft Engines and Pratt & Whitney rather than the Rolls-Royce model.

‘Preliminary reports indicate that the aircraft suffered an engine failure after take-off from Singapore,’ Airbus said in a statement.

‘Airbus will provide full technical assistance to the French [aviation office] BEA, as well as to the Australian authorities who will be responsible for the investigation. A team of specialists from Airbus is being dispatched to Singapore.’

Péter Marosszéky, founder of Australian consultancy Aerospace Developments and an aircraft crash expert, speculated from images of the aircraft that the engine failure may have caused some of the bypass ducting to depart from the engine.

‘This type of incident has been seen previously but it was a long time ago and with much older aircraft than the A380,’ he said.

Stewart John, Royal Academy of Engineering fellow and former president of the Royal Aeronautical Society, said: ’We will not have a proper idea of the cause of this incident until the damaged engine has been inspected – until then it’s all speculation.

‘We do know that the engine has sustained severe damage but we need to establish whether it was an uncontained engine failure, which would be of great concern, or foreign-object damage.’


Readers' comments (6)

  • This is very worrying. one of the reasons why the jet engine came into being was because on propeller engines, blades were flying off because of the high radial forces.

    Now with jet engines getting bigger in diameter you have to wonder whether this problem is re-occurring.

    If I remember my maths from university days, the radial force is Inertia x rotational speed squared x mean radius.
    where Inertia = (mass x mean radius squared)/2
    or something like that.
    In other words the radial force is proportional to the rotational speed squared and the mean radius squared. This is why wind generators are so expensive and limited in the range of winds they can operate in.

    I'm sure Rolls Royce engineers have considered this, and made every test possible, but I will feel a lot better about this when they make the statement.

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  • Looks to me like the damage was contained pretty well. Very impressive.

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  • The centripetal force =mass*velocity square divide by radius
    if the blades of the rotor not good
    fixed you can have a big problem.

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  • Sorry I make a mistake in my formula
    the centripetal force= mass*velocity^2/radius.If the blades of the rotor not good assembled on the ax
    then their is a problem ,I am not sure

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  • It has been reported that the damage was not contained and debris holed the wing and damaged the inboard engine. I thought this was a breach of the design rules

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  • There was a recent TV program showing Rolls Royce engines being built and tested. It showed a test where there is an explosive device detonated with the engine on full power, just to test the containment. I still have 100% confidence in RR who are the world leaders in quality and innovation. Speculation is no good to engineers, it's only used to sell rubbish news. Let's hope the facts are published.

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