Qantas Looks At Suing Rolls-Royce Over A380 Engine 'Defect'

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Qantas Airways announced Thursday it will launch legal action against Rolls-Royce over the financial and commercial impact of the mid-air failure of one of the manufacturer's engines last month.

The airline filed a preliminary claim in the Federal Court of Australia, which allows Qantas to pursue legal action if not satisfied with the compensation offered by Rolls-Royce.

"Today's action allows Qantas to keep all options available to the company to recover losses, as a result of the grounding of the A380 fleet and the operational constraints currently imposed on A380 services," the airline said in a statement.

Qantas said the airline is still assessing the damage, and therefore the claim did not include a specific figure. Insurance-consulting company Aon estimated the bill of damage for the jet to be at least $70 million, not factoring in extra repairs and inspections, or costs associated with the airline grounding its A380 fleet for most of November. Since the airline has not yet returned the aircraft to service or know for sure when Rolls-Royce can solve the technical issues, a solid estimate could be months away.

Rolls-Royce has not yet commented on the negotiations with Qantas.

Earlier on Thursday, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said the agency had discovered a "potential manufacturing defect" that may have contributed to the engine failure on a Sydney-bound A380 jetliner that was forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore. The plan had 450 people on board at the time.

After examining parts of the engine, the bureau found an uneven boring inside a tube that feeds oil to the engine's high-pressure and intermediate-pressure bearing structure. This misalignment caused one side of the tube to be thinner than another, eventually resulting in a fatigue crack.

The recommendation warned the condition "could lead to an elevated risk of fatigue crack initiation and growth, oil leakage and potential catastrophic engine failure from a resulting oil fire" in other engines.

Although the investigation is still underway, the agency's chief commissioner, Martin Dolan, told the New York Times the misaligned boring and resulting fatigue crack is being treated as "a possible mechanism for what happened with the Qantas flight."

The bureau also urged immediate checks of all A380s using Trent 900 engines and "removal of service of any engine which displays the counter-boring problem."

Currently, there are 21 A380s operated by Qantas, Singapore and Lufthansa that use the Trent 900 engine. Air France and Emirates also fly A380s, but these fleets use a different engine.

Photo by simon_sees on flickr.

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