Sydney: Qantas on Tuesday announced the partial resumption of A380 flights but said most of its superjumbos would remain grounded and the trans-Pacific Los Angeles route was off-limits after a mid-air engine blast.
Chief executive Alan Joyce said he would be on the first Airbus A380 which will leave Sydney for London via Singapore on Saturday—more than three weeks after the explosion forced a Sydney-bound flight to make an emergency landing.
“We’re completely comfortable with the operation of the aircraft,” Joyce told reporters, adding, “We have grounded this fleet for 19 days...to make sure we are fully comfortable before putting them back in the air.”
Joyce said two superjumbos would be back in action on the London route this week after engine replacements, to be joined by two new A380s which will be delivered by the end of the year. Another two A380s are expected in early 2011.
But four of the giant, double-decker planes remain grounded, including the damaged craft which was forced into a smoky emergency landing at Singapore on 4 November and remains under investigation by safety authorities.
“The remaining aircraft already in the fleet will be returned to service once Qantas, the manufacturers and regulators are completely satisfied that it is safe to do so,” the airline said in a statement.
Joyce said the fleet remained limited after problems were discovered with 16 of the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines used to power its A380s—four per plane—meaning the turbines would have to be replaced.
He also said A380 flights would not yet resume to Los Angeles, despite assurances by engine-maker Rolls-Royce and air safety regulators, because the journey required greater engine thrust, underlining ongoing concerns.
In its statement, Qantas said it was voluntarily suspending A380 services on the Los Angeles route “until further operational experience is gained or possible additional changes are made to engines”.
“This is an operational decision by Qantas and pilots still have access to maximum certified thrust if they require it during flight,” the carrier said. “It is not a manufacturer’s directive.”
Joyce said Qantas was being “very conservative” with the re-introduction of the aircraft, and was working with Airbus and British engine-maker Rolls-Royce to bring its other A380s back into service.
The Australian carrier grounded its superjumbos after an A380’s Rolls-Royce engine blew up minutes into a flight from Singapore to Sydney, damaging a wing and scattering debris.