Oil fire said to be likely cause of Qantas aircraft failure

An oil fire was the likely cause of last week’s mid-air engine failure of a Qantas A380 aircraft, according to Europe’s aviation regulator.

The Australian airline said its Airbus A380 fleet would remain grounded for a further 48 hours, as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) ordered further inspections on all craft using the Rolls Royce Trent 900 engine.

EASA described the incident that forced the Qantas aircraft to make an emergency landing in Singapore last Thursday as ‘an uncontained engine involving release of high-energy debris and leading to damage to the aircraft’.

The regulator issued an airworthiness directive that said: ‘Analysis of the preliminary elements from the incident investigation shows that an oil fire in the HP/IP structure cavity may have caused the failure of the Intermediate Pressure Turbine (IPT) Disc.’

This echoed the findings of an earlier directive warning of wear to the turbines that could cause an oil fire or engine shutdown, which it emerged last week had been issued to Rolls Royce in August.

The new directive said airlines should, as an interim action, carry out repetitive inspections of the turbines in order to detect any abnormal oil leakage and that the engines should not be operated until this is done.

A statement issued by Qantas said the company’s inspection programme was ongoing and fully compliant with the directive. ‘The specific checks mandated by the directive were already being carried out by Qantas in conjunction with Rolls-Royce,’ it said.

Singapore Airlines has grounded three of its A380s, having earlier cleared them for flight but then reporting slight oil stains on the engines.

Lufthansa, the other airline that uses the Trent 900 engines, is also carrying out inspections and has reportedly sent one engine back to Rolls Royce for evaluation.