Amid Safety Concerns, Airlines Will Fly A380s

Qantas grounded its entire fleet of A380 super jumbo jets after an engine exploded this morning, raising safety concerns over the newly introduced plane.

Airbus and Rolls-Royce have since advised Singapore Airlines, the carrier flying the most A380s, to carry out technical checks on the model.

"Our engine manufacturer Rolls Royce and aircraft manufacturer Airbus have advised us to conduct precautionary technical checks on our A380 aircraft, following today's incident involving another operator's A380," Singapore Airlines spokesman Nicholas Ionides told AFP.

Singapore will not be grounding the carrier's fleet of 11 A380s, but did say all flights using the model will be delayed. Air France, Emirates and Lufthansa also fly the model.

The A380 began commercial flights in 2007. The double-decker plane is the largest jetliner in the world, with a capacity for up to 840 passengers.

Qantas Flight 32 was carrying 433 passengers and 23 crewmembers when passengers heard what sounded like an explosion. The plane, just six minutes into a flight from Singapore to Sydney, immediately turned back to Singapore for an emergency landing. Debris from the plane that scattered over an Indonesian island has been recovered.

"This is probably the most serious incident involving the A380 since it began flying in commercial service," aviation expert Tom Ballantyne, chief correspondent of Orient Aviation magazine, told Reuters. "There have been minor engine incidents before but nothing like this."

The A380s operated by Qantas are equipped with Trent 900 engines manufactured by Rolls-Royce. Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa fly A380s fitted with the same engine.

A spokesperson from Lufthansa told the Wall Street Journal: "At this point we are planning to operate our A380 planes as scheduled." Lufthansa flies three A380 aircraft.

The four A380s owned by Air France are fitted with engines built by Engine Alliance, a partnership between Pratt and Wittney, General Electric and Safran. The airline has no plans to ground the model.

According to Reuters, Emirates also announced no plans to stop flying the aircraft. Emirates has ordered 90 A380s, with 12 currently in service.

Jeremie Teahan, a spokesman from the European Aviation Safety Agency that monitors both Airbus and Rolls-Royce, told the New York Times the group is working closely investigators to determine the cause of the incident.

"If a safety risk is identified, we will of course take appropriate measures," he said. These measures could include anything from defective parts to mandated repairs.

As of June 2010, there were 234 orders for the A380. The average price of the aircraft was $346.3 million.

Photo by MiqsPix on flickr.

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