There's so many good commercial aviation blogs out there - mostly from the States and Canada. But none that I can see from this little island in Northern Europe. With the demise of a great blog by a BA Skipper that many I am sure followed (including me), I've decided to take on the challenge!

I hope you enjoy the commentary on all matters of civil aviation from my vantage point in the left hand seat of Virgin Atlantic's Airbuses!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A380 uncontained engine failure - Qantas

Already lots of speculation as to what may have caused a newish engine (Trent 900) to fail in this catastrrophic way on the QF32. It's not supposed to happen this way - and certainly Rolls Royce (whose share price dived on news this morning) will be concerned - and so they should. Maybe 15,000 hours of use - sounds a lot doesn't it? But it's likely only 2 and a half years in. That means - questions have to be raised as far as the manufacturing integrity is concerned and then a good look at the QF maintenance (which I believe is done by Lufthansa for the A380).

All failures like this - given the flagship status of the A380 - are going to garner relentless press coverage and the key here is not to knee-jerk.

The only things that seem fairly sure at this moment are:
1. There was an uncontained engine failure, and
2. It appears to have been impossible to shut down #1 normally after landing

Thwew are some parts of the engine where a failure is not expected to be contained due to the high energy of the rotating parts. Therefore the engine is designed so these never experience a failure condition (by operation, maintenance, lifing). Equally it is not feasible to make an aircraft proof against every eventuality or it would be so heavy it wouldn't fly. The FMEA sets the severity of damage against the probability of it happening. The overall risk is mitigated by reducing the probability of the incident not protecting against its effects.
The investigators will be looking at -
1. What failed, and why, and is it a one-off?
2. Although the aircraft is not expected to withstand an uncontained engine failure is there sufficient redundancy in the engine control system?

As also indicated above the 'fail safe' condition for loss of signal to the engine control is to continue at last demanded power, it is obviously not a satisfactory condition if a single event can lead to loss of control - in which case there may be a major systems re-design on the books.

A few years ago, a Trent-700 on an Airbus A330 near Miami suffered virtually the same - and here we are again.

But to make it clear - this is the second safest method of travel in the world today - the safest being lifts (or elevators in the USA)!

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