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.

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