Thursday, November 11, 2010

Boeing halts test flights of delay-plagued 787 Dreamliner

AFP - Thursday, November 11

SEATTLE, Washington (AFP) - – US aerospace giant Boeing on Wednesday halted test flights on its new 787 Dreamliner, dealing a fresh setback to a program already running about three years behind schedule.

Boeing announced the decision after a fire aboard a test plane on Tuesday forced an emergency landing.

At a news conference in Seattle in the western US state of Washington, Boeing spokeswoman Loretta Gunter said the fire was the most serious incident since test flights began in December 2009.

"I don't know how long the suspension will last," Gunter said, adding that the focus would be on ground testing until the incident was understood and that it was unclear if the fire would further delay the program.

The 787 Dreamliner, launched in April 2004, has suffered a series of setbacks, many of them from challenges in the international production of parts for the mid-size plane.

Boeing says the high-tech 787, made essentially from composite materials, will deliver a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption compared with planes of similar size flying today.

The first 787 was initially promised to Japanese launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) in the first half of 2008. Delivery has now been put back to around February 2011.

Smoke filled the ZA002, one of Boeing's six test 787s, on Tuesday, forcing an emergency landing in Laredo, Texas.

"There was a fire on board the airplane, which created the smoke in the cabin area," Gunter said, stressing that the investigation was of "an incident, not an accident.

"We don't know where it started. We need to analyze all the data," the Boeing spokeswoman said, adding that the fire was not in the main cabin and had been extinguished before the plane landed.

Shares in Chicago-based Boeing plunged 3.15 percent to close at 67.07 dollars in New York.

"The most likely outcome is a modest delay to the flight test with a potential multi-week slip in first delivery, which is well within the range of investor expectations," Barclays Capital analysts said in a client note.

The troubled plane was painted in ANA livery and like three other 787 test planes was equipped with a Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine. The remaining two have General Electric GEnx engines.

"Right now we don't see any connection with the engine," Gunter said.

The British firm has been in the spotlight after a spate of mid-air mishaps.

In early November, a Qantas Airbus A380 superjumbo was forced to make an emergency landing after a Rolls-Royce Trent 900 blew out.

In a separate incident, a Qantas Boeing 747 had to turn back to Singapore after another model of Rolls-Royce engine failed in mid-air.

In August, Boeing pushed back the 787 delivery schedule from a target of the early weeks of 2011 due to a delay in the availability of a Rolls-Royce engine.

Gunter said a Rolls-Royce engine had exploded during ground tests in September.

It was the second time Boeing has halted 787 test flights, suspending them for "a couple of days" in June, she said, without explaining the reason. US media reported problems with the plane's tail stabilizers.

Boeing has 55 customers from six continents that have placed orders for 847 Dreamliners to date, valued at 147 billion dollars, the most successful launch of a new commercial airplane in its history.

But it has faced cancellations and compensation claims for some delays.

Last week Aviation Week, citing industry sources, reported Boeing has warned Korean Air, Air India and Japan Airlines of delays of up to 10 months.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Qantas B747 plane "experienced engine problems" after takeoff

By Lynda Hong | Posted: 05 November 2010 2214 hrs

SINGAPORE: A Qantas aircraft experienced engine problems on Friday evening.

Qantas said that shortly after takeoff, QF6 operating from Singapore to Sydney "experienced an issue with its number 1 engine".

Qantas added that as a precautionary measure, the captain of the Boeing 747 aircraft sought priority clearance to return to Singapore.

The aircraft landed safely.

There were 412 passengers on board, along with three flight crew and 16 cabin crew.

- CNA/ir

Qantas fears engine design fault after A380 drama

Posted: 05 November 2010 1333 hrs

SYDNEY: Qantas said Friday a mid-air drama involving a flagship A380 superjumbo may have been caused by a design fault in its Rolls-Royce engines, raising questions over the giant long-haul craft.

Chief executive Alan Joyce said early investigations pointed to a "material failure or a design issue" in the Airbus plane's engines after one exploded minutes after take-off from Singapore, prompting an emergency landing.

However, Joyce said Qantas' five other A380s -- the world's biggest passenger jet -- could be back in action within days, after safety checks by Rolls-Royce and Qantas engineers in Los Angeles and Sydney.

"This is an engine issue and the engines were maintained by Rolls-Royce since being installed on the aircraft," Joyce told reporters at the Australian flag-carrier's Sydney headquarters.

"We believe that this is most likely some kind of material failure or a design issue... we don't believe this is related to maintenance in any way."

The comments are the first to shed light on Thursday's events, when engine casing rained down on an Indonesian town and the superjumbo with 466 people on board dumped fuel before returning to Singapore.

He said that a second engine, next to the one that exploded, would not shut down after the landing, raising further concerns.

Rolls-Royce urged airlines to carry out "basic precautionary checks" on its Trent 900 engines after the incident.

Some 37 of the giant planes are currently in use around the world.

Qantas has grounded its fleet of six A380s but Joyce said they could return to the skies within 48 hours if they come through eight hours of safety checks.

Since its 2007 launch, fuel and computer glitches have grounded several A380s and one Air France flight was forced back to New York after problems with its navigation system in November 2009.

In April, a Qantas A380 damaged tyres on landing from Singapore in Sydney, causing a shower of sparks. Joyce said tyres also burst during Thursday's incident, but described that as "not significant".

Shares in Qantas fell 1.04 per cent to 2.86 Australian dollars in Friday trade. - AFP/fa

Rolls-Royce recommends engine checks after A380 incident

AFP - Friday, November 5

LONDON (AFP) - – Rolls-Royce on Thursday recommended that "basic precautionary checks" are carried out on its Trent 900 engines, after an engine made by the firm caught fire on a Qantas A380 Airbus.

The Qantas flight with more than 450 people on board made a dramatic forced landing in Singapore on Thursday, trailing smoke from a blackened engine, in the superjumbo's first mid-air emergency.

"Since Qantas QF32 suffered an engine failure and returned safely to Singapore Changi Airport we have been working closely with our customer and the authorities," Rolls said in an official statement on Thursday.

"In situations like these Rolls-Royce has well established processes to collect and understand information relating to the event and to determine suitable actions."

It added: "As always the safe operation of our products is our number one priority.

"The in-service fleet of Trent 900 engines is small and relatively new, and the group feels that it is prudent to recommend that a number of basic precautionary engine checks are performed. This process is now underway."

Rolls-Royce added that it would work closely with its customers to probe the incident, but stressed that the matter was at a "very early" stage.

"We will continue to work closely with our customers as the investigation moves forward.

"This is at a very early stage and it would be inappropriate to draw any conclusions at this time."

In reaction to the latest news, Rolls-Royce shares slumped 4.75 percent to 622 pence in afternoon London trading on London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of leading shares, which was up 1.99 percent.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Qantas plane makes emergency landing in S’pore

By Ewen Boey – November 4th, 2010

Agence France Presse

A Qantas A380 made a dramatic emergency landing in Singapore Thursday, trailing smoke from a damaged engine, in the first mid-air emergency involving the Airbus superjumbo.

The double-decker plane, which had taken off from Singapore bound for Sydney carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew, dumped fuel over Indonesia before returning to the city-state’s Changi Airport.

According to a Changi Airport Group spokesperson, the A380 Qantas flight QF 32 departed Singapore Changi Airport at 0956 hours today. For technical reasons, the aircraft turned back to Changi and landed safely at 1146 hours.

Changi Airport Group’s Airport Emergency Service (AES) responded with six fire vehicles, in accordance with standard operating procedure for such incidents. In response to the pilot’s request, checks were conducted on the aircraft by AES.

Once the checks were completed, passengers and crew began disembarking from the aircraft at Runway 2. Buses were arranged to ferry them to the airport terminal. Disembarkation of all 469 passengers and crew on board was completed by 1340 hours.

When contacted, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson from the Australian consulate in Canberra told Yahoo! Singapore, “The flight has landed safely at Changi Airport and there are no passengers or crew injured.”

“Australian consular officials are at Changi Airport ready to assist passengers if required. Qantas has arranged meals and accommodation for passengers and is urgently making arrangements for affected passengers to fly on to Sydney,” she added.

The Qantas Airbus A380 plane surrounded by fire engines after landing safely at Changi Airport.
One of the engines on the four-engined plane’s left wing was blackened and its rear casing was missing when it landed at Changi Airport.

Plane debris including what appeared to be part of a Qantas jet was found in the Indonesian town of Batam, after a mid-air explosion was heard on the ground.

“I didn’t see a plane crash but I heard a loud explosion in the air. There were metal shards coming down from the sky into an industrial area in Batam,” witness Noor Kanwa told AFP

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the airline is suspending all flights of its six Airbus A380 jetliners after a mid-air engine problem on a flight from Singapore.

Joyce told a news conference in Sydney on Thursday the suspension would remain in place until Qantas was satisfied that it was safe for its A380s to fly.

Joyce said “we will suspend those A380 services until we are completely confident that Qantas safety requirements have been met.”

Australian flag-carrier Qantas, which prides itself as the world’s safest airline with no fatal jetliner crashes in its 90-year history, blamed an “engine issue” for the incident but gave no further details.

“In line with procedure, the pilot sought priority clearance for its return to Singapore,” the airline said.

In light of Qantas grounding its entire A380 fleet, a Singapore Airlines spokesperson told Yahoo! Singapore, “There are no plans as of now to ground our A380 aircraft, and operations are continuing as normal. It is premature at this point to speculate and we will await advice from the aircraft and engine manufacturers as the investigation progresses.”

Debris photo on Indonesian TV (Twitter photo courtesy of @RodrigoBNO)
The A380′s very first commercial flight operated by SIA was on the same Singapore-Sydney route in October 2007.

Since then, fuel and computer glitches have grounded several A380s and at least one Air France flight was forced to turn around and land in New York after problems with its navigation system in November 2009.

And in April, a Qantas A380 superjumbo damaged tyres on landing from Singapore in Sydney, showing sparks and scaring passengers.

The plane is the largest passenger jet in operation, with 50 percent more floor space than Boeing’s veteran 747 jumbo. The A380 can carry up to 853 passengers in an all-economy configuration.

Qantas said on its website it has taken delivery of six of its 20 Airbus A380-800 aircraft, which it said represents the second-largest A380 order of any airline in the world.

Qantas said the A380 operates selected flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles, Singapore and London.