Qantas launches court action over A380 engines

CRAIG PLATT AND ANDREW HEASLEY
Last updated 20:49 02/12/2010

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Qantas has increased pressure on Rolls-Royce to reach a commercial settlement over problems caused by the manufacturer's A380 superjumbo engines by launching a court action.

The airline issued a statement today saying it had filed a statement of claim and was granted an injunction by the Federal Court of Australia to ensure the company can pursue legal action against Rolls-Royce in Australia, particularly under the Trade Practices Act, if a commercial settlement is not possible.

It is believed the costs incurred by the grounding of aircraft could be $100 million.

"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.

The news comes after the Australian Transport Safety Bureau issued a new safety warning over Airbus A380 engines following the discovery of a new manufacturing defect.

The warning comes ahead of the ATSB's preliminary report into the engine failure of Qantas flight QF32 over Indonesia last month.

The newly discovered defect, which relates to an oil tube connection in the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine, is believed to be the cause of the engine failure of flight QF32.

The problem is caused by the 'off-axis' boring of the oil tube that supplies the engine bearing with oil, resulting in a thinning of the material on one side that "could lead to fatigue cracking, oil leakage and potential engine failure from an oil fire", the ASTB said.

A380s with Rolls-Royce engines will again be required to undergo careful examination by the airlines that use them: Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.

Qantas grounded its fleet of A380s following the engine failure on November 4. Two A380s have since returned to service.

The problem has been found in the first series of Trent 900 Rolls-Royce engines, dubbed 'modification A'.

Three of these engines have been removed from service by Qantas.

Qantas will begin examinations this afternoon on later 'B' series engines to check for evidence of the flaw using 3D-imaging equipment. Rolls-Royce has told Qantas its most up-to-date 'C' series engines are not affected.

It is not yet known whether Qantas or the other airlines will be required to ground their A380 fleets.

Qantas said the discovery of the defect "appears to provide a more definitive explanation for the engine failure that occurred on QF32."

Qantas said it did not anticipate at this stage that the inspections will have an impact on international services, but that contingency arrangements will be in place, if needed.

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The ATSB is believed to be making last-minute changes to its preliminary investigation report into the QF32 incident to reflect the new information.

ATSB chief commissioner Martin Dolan will tomorrow present the information gleaned so far and the key safety issues resulting from the investigation to date.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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