19 Nov 2010

Qantas Airbus passengers 'lucky' to be alive

4:29 pm on 19 November 2010

The head of the Australian aircraft engineers association says passengers on a Qantas plane in which an engine exploded mid-air are lucky to be alive.

A preliminary investigation into what happened on the Airbus A380 flight from Singapore to Sydney two weeks ago shows shrapnel from the explosion severed a fuel pipe and narrowly missed the wing's fuel tank.

Chunks of hot metal also took out flight control systems.

Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association federal secretary Steven Purvinas says the incident could have been fatal.

The A380 had just taken off from Singapore for Sydney when it was forced to turn back on 4 November after an explosion.

The pilots made a successful emergency landing.

All 459 passengers and crew were unharmed.

Airbus has told airlines in its latest technical bulletin on the incident that three high-energy turbine fragments flew out of the engine when it exploded and two of these severed cables in the wing.

Airbus says the severing of cables in one of the plane's wings meant that the pilots could not immediately shut down one of the A380's three other engines.

Rolls-Royce said last week that the failure of a specific component in the turbine caused an oil fire in the engine.

Qantas has grounded all six of its A380s since the incident. The airline said on Thursday that up to 40 Rolls-Royce engines on Airbus A380 superjumbos worldwide would need to be replaced.