Human ingenuity may have been all that saved Qantas Flight QF32 earlier this month, according to the Australian and International Pilots Association.
The Airbus A380 aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore after one of its four Rolls-Royce engines disintegrated on takeoff.
Crew subsequently received a total of 54 computer messages warning them of further failures aboard the aircraft during, with more than 450 passengers aboard.
“I don’t think any crew in the world would have been trained to deal with the different issues they faced,” said Richard Woodward of the Australian and International Pilots Association, who has spoken with all five pilots on the flight.
“There is probably a one in 100 million chance to have all that go wrong.”
Following the blowout, engine pieces sliced electric cables and hydraulic lines in one of the aircraft’s wings, while one of the beams attaching the wing to the plane was also damaged.
Two fuel tanks were also punctured, with the leaking fuel creating an imbalance between the left and right sides of the plane, Woodward explained.
The electrical problems prevented the pilots from pumping fuel forward from tanks in the tail, which in turn saw the plane become tail heavy, a condition that could have caused the Singapore-to-Sydney jetliner to lose lift, stall and crash.
Despite the multitude of technical problems, the aircraft was will equipped with human expertise. Some five pilots were aboard – two, both captains, undergoing evaluation – with a total of over 100 years flying experience present.
Pilot Richard de Crespigny concentrated on handling the controls, while the others dealt with the computer alarms and made announcements to the passengers, some of whom said they were frantically pointing to flames streaming from the engine.
Working flat out, it took 50 minutes for the pilots to address all the messages before a safe landing could be made.
With the plane safely on the ground, attention has focused on the Rolls-Royce engine which failed during the incident.
The engine manufacturer has identified a fault with the Trent 900 involved, with all three airlines using the device – Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Qantas – replacing engines on their Airbus A380 fleet.
A total of 40 engines may need to be replaced, Qantas warned yesterday.
Heaping further woe on Rolls-Royce earlier, Airbus confirmed it will seek full compensation for the extra logistical costs incurred for disruptions caused by the failure of the engine.
Airbus, Europe’s largest aircraft builder, is taking engines off A380s on its production line at Toulouse, in south-western France, and handing them over to Rolls-Royce so it can install them on aircraft that are already in service.
“We are making extra efforts to keep our production flow going and to help our customers maintain their operations,” Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath said.
“For that, we will seek full compensation,” he added.