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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A new alternative fuels success for Airbus

Airbus is continuing its support of alternative fuel research with a cooperative flight involving a TAM Airlines A320 using Jatropha-based biofuel – the widespread use of which could reduce the air transport sector’s overall carbon footprint by up to 80 per cent.

Airbus A300

This month’s milestone flight took off from Brazil’s Galeão Antonio Carlos Jobim International airport in Rio de Janeiro, with the A320 flying for 45 minutes before returning to its point of origin. It used a 50 per cent blend of locally-sourced Brazilian Japtropha-based bio-kerosene and conventional aviation kerosene processed by UOP LLC, a Honeywell group.

The experimental flight was approved by Airbus and engine provider CFM International, and was authorized by aviation authorities in Europe and Brazil.

Airbus is continuously working with international, industry and cross-industry partners to fully explore the potential benefits of alternative fuels. To coordinate these efforts, the company has developed an alternative fuels roadmap, which estimates that some 30 per cent of all jet fuel used in 2030 could be sustainable biojet fuel.

The company launched this programme in 2008, when – in collaboration with Shell International Petroleum and Rolls-Royce – an A380 became the first civil airliner in commercial aviation history to fly using a 40 per cent blend of synthetic liquid fuel derived from natural gas (GTL).

Another milestone was marked the following year with the world’s first passenger flight using 50 per cent blended GTL – a joint effort between Airbus and Qatar Airways, which utilised a four-engine A340-600 jetliner.

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