The game-changing A380 comes to Korean Air

Airbus’ A380 will soon be in service with Korean Air as its sixth international operator, further expanding a global route network that every day is underscoring this aircraft’s undisputed role as the world air transport industry’s new flagship airliner.

During a ceremony today at Airbus’ Toulouse, France headquarters, the Seoul-based carrier celebrated its first A380 delivery, becoming one of two airlines – along with China Southern – that are to join the growing operator list during 2011.

Korean Air - Airbus A380.

Already flying the A380 in commercial revenue service are Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas, Air France and Lufthansa, which together have carried more than 12 million passengers while logging excellent passenger load factors and demonstrating high operational reliability.

Destinations served – and also announced for A380 service – has reached 23 cities linked by 32 different routes, including the upcoming non-stop flights planned by Korean Air from Seoul to North America and Europe. Overall, this network covers 11 of the world’s top 15 international airports, and encompasses such major hubs as London-Heathrow, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Dubai, Singapore and Tokyo; along with destinations such as Manchester, Zurich, Toronto and other cities.

Airbus A380 delivery to Korean air.

“The A380 continues to be a game-changer: it is recognised by passengers as something definitely better, while airlines are benefitting from its lowest fuel burn, cost per seat and noise of any large aircraft,” said Richard Carcaillet, Airbus’ director of A380 product marketing. “With the A380 now in its fourth year of revenue operations, this aircraft is all that it meant to be, and is now recognised as the worthy successor to the legendary – but now venerable – 747.”

A total of 234 A380s have been ordered from 18 customers to date, including carriers from all three major global airline alliances: oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance. This order book tally includes the 10 A380s being acquired by Korean Air, of which the first five are to be delivered by the end of 2011, with the additional five received by 2014. · For additional information on Korean Air’s A380 first delivery celebration, see the dedicated event website.

Australian airline Qantas faces engineers strike

Engineers from the Australian airline Qantas are to hold a one-hour strike on Friday amid fears over job security. The strike will likely cause disruption for thousands of passengers.

The strike was called after negotiations between the ALAEA, an engineers’ union, and the airline, broke down. “What interests us more is job security, and for aircraft engineers that means simply being able to carry out aircraft maintenance in Australia,” Steve Purvinas, the secretary of the ALAEA, said. It is likely the strike will be the first in a line of industrial action.

Qantas 747-400.

Purvinas said last-ditch negotiations between the ALAEA and Qantas before a Fair Work Australia judge yesterday had “hit a brick wall.” Analysts say the strike will probably have a huge impact on Qantas flights. The airline said it was “extremely disappointed” at the strike action but said disruption would be minimal. “We will not be able to negotiate on some of the demands they have put forward, they are simply unacceptable,” an airline spokesperson said.

The ALAEA said the main concern was that Qantas was outsourcing more work overseas and maintenance checks on aircraft are becoming less regular. Pervinas said Qantas engineers were “sick of the systematic dismantling of our industry by Qantas management.”

‘Critical safety issue’ with A380 engines

Australian transport investigators have announced they have identified a “critical safety issue” with engines fitted to the world’s largest passenger airliner. Some Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, which power some Airbus A380 “superjumbos”, may be prone to “fatigue cracking”, which could lead to oil leakage and a fire.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said they think this was “central to the engine failure” which occurred on a Qantas A380 on November 4, shortly after take-off from Singapore. The airline grounded all six of its fleet of A380s so they could undergo safety checks before they were put back into service. Late last month, Qantas announced the aircraft were safe and began returning them to service.

A Rolls-Royce engineer testing a Trent 900 engine. Image: US Air Force.

The ATSB said the manufacturing fault with the Trent 900 engines “could lead to an elevated risk of fatigue crack initiation and growth, oil leakage and potential catastrophic engine failure from a resulting oil fire.” The agency urged Rolls-Royce to “address the safety issue and take actions necessary to ensure the safety of flight operations in transport aircraft equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent 900 series engines.”

Qantas emphasised on Thursday that there was “no immediate risk to flight safety,” but said they would conduct further investigations. A statement from the airline said: “Qantas currently has two A380 aircraft in operational service, following the grounding of the fleet on 4 November. Both A380 aircraft will be inspected at the Qantas Jet Base in Sydney. Inspections will commence this afternoon.” Two other airlines use A380 aircraft with Trent engines, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines; Singapore Airlines said they were checking the engines of their A380s “on a daily basis”. They said: “The new checks advised by the ATSB will be carried out as quickly as possible.”

The incident in Singapore was embarrassing for Airbus. Aviation journalist Tom Ballantyne said the incident in Singapore was “certainly the most serious incident that the A380 has experienced since it entered operations.” The A380 made its first commercial flight in 2007, and is now in service with several other airlines, including Air France and Emirates. It is the largest commercial passenger airliner in the world, with an 840-passenger maximum capacity, though Qantas’ can carry 450.

Qantas says A380 aircraft are safe to fly after ‘serious’ incident

Australian airline Qantas has returned the first of its fleet of Airbus A380s to service, after all six of the “superjumbo” aircraft were grounded three weeks ago following one aircraft’s engine sustaining extensive midair damage; it landed safely in Singapore without injury. The airline stated that all of the aircraft have undergone extensive safety inspections and they are satisfied they are safe.

An Airbus A380 like that involved in the incident earlier this month. The A380, or "superjumbo", is the largest commercial passenger airliner in the world. Image: Andrei Dimofte.

Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, said: “It’s great that we can reintroduce the aircraft. We are 100 percent comfortable with it. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be restarting the operations today.” A spokesperson confirmed that tests had been performed “in close consultation with Rolls-Royce and Airbus” on the model’s Trent 900 engines. Qantas has replaced at least 14 engines, and modifications have been made to Trent 900s used by two other companies, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.

Experts said that the incident was embarrassing for Airbus; the airline’s shares have dropped by 7% since. Aviation journalist Tom Ballantyne said that the failure earlier this month was “certainly the most serious incident that the A380 has experienced since it entered operations.” The A380 made its first commercial flight in 2007, and is now in service with several other airlines, including Air France. It is the largest commercial passenger airliner in the world, with an 840-passenger maximum capacity, though Qantas’s can carry 450. There are reportedly plans to build a cargo version of the plane, which, aviation experts have suggested, would be the world’s first “triple-decker” freight aircraft; Airbus has not confirmed that this variant will be built.

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