SYDNEY – A Qantas A380 carrying more than 450 passengers, including the airline’s chief executive, took to the skies Saturday in the first flight by one of its superjumbos since a midair engine explosion three weeks ago triggered a global safety review.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said he was flying the first leg of the Sydney-Singapore-London flight as a sign of the airline’s conviction that it had completed all modifications and other checks on the Rolls-Royce engines, and the planes were safe to fly.
“We are 100 percent comfortable with it,” Joyce told reporters.
But Australia’s flagship airline suffered another public relations setback the same day when a Boeing 747 flight from Sydney to London via Bangkok was grounded in Sydney overnight due to a “wiring issue,” Qantas spokesman Tom Woodward said.
Qantas grounded its six A380s after a Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine on one of the superjumbos disintegrated shortly after takeoff from Singapore on Nov. 4, sending shrapnel slicing through a wing and causing multiple problems for the pilots before they managed to safely land the jetliner back in Singapore.
Investigators say leaking oil caught fire in the engine and heated metal parts, causing them to disintegrate. Experts say chunks of flying metal cut hydraulics and an engine-control line in the wing of the A380, causing the loss of control of a second engine and loss of some braking power, fuel leaks and more than 50 onboard warnings.
It was the most serious safety incident for the world’s largest and newest jetliners. Other airlines using the Trent 900 engine on A380s – Singapore Airlines and Germany’s Lufthansa – also briefly grounded some planes while safety checks were conducted.
Qantas’ checks have been more exhaustive than those of the other airlines. It has replaced 16 of the Trent 900 engines – each A380 has four of the bus-size engines.
Qantas is putting just two of its A380s back into service while modifications are made on engines on the other aircraft in its fleet. The plane that suffered in the midair blowout is still in Singapore, where investigations are continuing.