Qantas reviews way it runs A380s in engine probe

Qantas Airways is reviewing the way it operates its A380 planes after last week’s engine blowout, a source said on Tuesday, amid reports that it worked its Rolls-Royce engines harder than other airlines.

Qantas operates its A380 engines at higher thrust levels, which could result in resonating vibrations that cause oil lines to crack, the Australian newspaper said.

The higher maximum thrust setting is used on some Qantas A380 take-offs on long-haul routes between Los Angeles, Sydney and Melbourne than other operators such as Singapore Airlines, the daily said, quoting unnamed engineers.

However, the extra thrust setting of 72 000 pounds remained 3 000 pounds below the engine’s design limits and within operating guidelines, it added.

Chief executive Alan Joyce said on Monday that its engines had a “slightly higher level of power” than those used in Singapore Airlines or Lufthansa planes, but they were certified to operate at those levels.

The way Qantas operated the engines was part of a wider review, said an airline source, who was not authorised to talk publicly about the matter.

“The operations are one of the things Qantas are reviewing along with the components,” said the source.

Qantas, which declined to comment on the report, said on Friday it suspected a material failure or a design issue may have caused last Thursday’s engine failure over Indonesia which forced the aircraft to make an emergency landing in Singapore.

Financial implications
Qantas said on Monday it would ground its six A380 aircraft until at least Thursday as investigations continued, with Rolls-Royce saying it had made progress in understanding the cause of the failure of its Trent 900 engine.

Qantas’s A380 planes account for about 7,5% of the airline’s seat capacity, according to analysts. JPMorgan analyst Matt Crowe estimated that a week the planes were on the ground would cost the airline A$15-A$20-million ($15,2 to $20,3-million) in revenue.

The impact was expected to be well below a volcanic ash cloud in April which forced Qantas to cancel all Europe-bound flights for around two weeks and had a A$46-million impact on the airline’s profits.

Qantas shares opened higher Tuesday but lost traction throughout the session, closing 1,8% lower at A$2,75. The stock is down about 5% since before the incident.

The airline was hit with a further setback on Monday night when a violent storm grounded some flights out of Sydney airport.

A Qantas spokesperson said three international flights were diverted, 13 domestic flights cancelled and seven diverted. – Reuters

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