QANTAS engineers have found oil “where oil should not be” in engines on the airline’s A380 fleet, leading to three engines being removed from aircraft, Qantas boss Alan Joyce revealed today.
Emergency checks following last week’s midair engine failure over Indonesia found “anomalies” on three of the fleet’s new Rolls-Royce engines, said Mr Joyce, but he added it would be “days not weeks” before the planes would be declared safe to fly again.
“On three of the engines what we have found is slight anomalies. Oil where oil shouldn’t be on the engines, and we are just trying to check what the cause of that could be,” Mr Joyce told ABC radio today.
“These are new engines on new aircraft. They shouldn’t have these issues at this stage so it’s given us an indication of an area for us to focus into.
“It’s too early for us to say what components or parts of the engine we think could have been the issue.”
Two of the engines taken off for closer inspection were on an A380 parked in Sydney and one is from a craft in Los Angeles. They were removed after the eight-hour tests Rolls-Royce recommended for each engine after the fleet was grounded.
The airline has one A380 in Singapore under investigation, one in Germany for servicing, one in Sydney and three in Los Angeles undergoing checks in the wake of the midair engine explosion last Thursday.
While the precise nature of the engine issues was not revealed, or whether the three engines are being examined for the same or different matters, the concern was sufficient to warrant their removal from the wings.
Despite Mr Joyce’s claim that the aircraft would be returned to service within days, it now seemed increasingly unlikely that the grounding of the fleet would be limited to the 48-hour period that the Qantas chief outlined on Friday.
Qantas spokesman Simon Rushton said the airline was taking an “ultra-conservative” approach to engine inspections.
“As part of the inspections we’re looking at every engine and, where necessary, we will take those engines off-wing and look very closely at every component if we need to,” he said.
“We will not do anything without being 100 per cent confident that the engines are fit for operation.”
Already 1300 passengers have been stranded by the fleet disruption. Most have been stuck in Los Angeles.
Mr Rushton warned that many thousands more would experience delays around the world as the remainder of its international fleet was shuffled about to cover the grounded A380s.
A delay to the QF6 service (Singapore to Sydney) yesterday was due to a replacement Boeing 747 being sent to Singapore carrying a fifth engine under the wings to replace the engine from QF6 that overheated late on Friday night.
The scramble to divert planes to cover the grounded A380s is having knock-on effects across the Qantas schedule, and travellers are advised to check the airline’s website for updates.
The engine explosion on QF32 (Singapore to Sydney) on Thursday, the overheated engine on QF6 on late Friday from Singapore and the cockpit warning of a hydraulic problem on QF29 (Hong Kong to London) on the same day have overshadowed what should have been a weekend of celebration.
To mark the occasion of Qantas turning 90, airline ambassador and actor John Travolta flew to Australia in his Boeing 707.
Air investigators have recovered almost half of a shattered turbine disc – a doughnut-shaped metal plate about a metre across – that blew out of the No. 2 engine on the Qantas plane Nancy Bird Walton last week and landed on Indonesia’s Batam island.
“The recovery of that disc could be crucial to a full understanding of the nature of the engine failure, and may have implications for the prevention of future similar occurrences,” the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said.
The bureau was flying more of its inspectors to Britain with the recovered disc fragment for Rolls-Royce and other expert parties to examine under its supervision.