Thursday, 4 November 2010

London to Sydney Qantas superjumbo with 459 on board makes emergency landing after its engine 'explodes'



Destroyed: The engine of the Qantas airline appeared to have exploded and the plane made an emergency landing in Singapore

Qantas grounds all six of its Airbus A380s for safety tests

Passengers offered counselling after emergency landing

Debris rains down over western Indonesia

A huge plane with 459 people onboard made an emergency landing today after one of its engines apparently exploded.

Witnesses reported a blast that sent debris from the Qantas superjumbo - flying from London to Sydney via Singapore - hurtling to the ground over western Indonesia.

The plane managed to land safely in Singapore but the passengers, many of whom are British, are now being offered counselling.

The Qantas flight QF32 had taken off from Singapore on its way to Sydney when the drama occurred, forcing the crew to fly back to Changi Airport, where the damage to the number two engine on the left wing could be seen.

Six fire engines swarmed around the aircraft when it landed as a local reporter said he could see smoke still coming from the engine.

The engine closest to the fuselage on the left wing had visible burn marks and was missing a section of plate that would have been painted with the red kangaroo logo of the airline. The upper part of the left wing also appeared to have suffered some damage.

Passnger Rosemary Hegardy, 60, from Sydney, said she heard two bangs and saw flames from her window.

'There were flames - yellow flames came out, and debris came off ... You could see black things shooting through the smoke, like bits of debris,' she said.

German passenger Ulf Waschbusch added: 'We heard the boom - I looked outside and saw a little bit of fire,' he said.

Debris: Indonesian police officers and locals inspect parts of the Qantas jetliner that rained down on them

Emergency: Passengers leave the huge superjumbo in Singapore. They are now being offered counselling

Another passenger, Christopher Lee, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that although it had been a traumatic experience, passengers remained calm because the cabin crew reassured everyone that the plane was heading back to Singapore on the remaining three engines.

Witnesses on the ground on Batam Island told of hearing a 'very loud explosion'.
People were photographed holding pieces of the engine cover they had found on the ground. 'It sounded like a bomb,' said one witness, known only as Devi.

Another witness spoke of hearing a screeching sound before the explosion. 'I thought I heard an explosion and when I looked up I saw a plane going round and round and there was smoke coming out of its tail,' he said.

Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce denied there had been an explosion but said he was grounding his entire fleet of A380s

'Then three or fur pieces of metal fell from the sky.'

A schoolteacher said some of the small pieces of debris crashed through the roof of a classroom, but no children were hurt.

Police officer Bobby Baharudin said debris was 'scattered over Batam'.
It was not immediately known if ash from the erupting Mount Merapi volcano had caused the engine problem - the volcano, which is spewing thick clouds, lies to the south of the route the jet was taking.

Geoff Reay, an Australian who lives on Batam Island, said his neighbours heard an explosion and ran out into the street.

'There are bits of aircraft lying on the ground and it landed about 200 yards from where our little boy goes to school. Other bits have fallen down in the suburb of Dutamas,' he said.

Indonesian officials are racing to find out if anyone has been killed or injured by the falling debris.

At first it was feared the jet had crashed - widespread rumours through Twitter reported that the plane had come down, resulting in Qantas officials issuing immediate denials.

Mr Tatang Kurnia, head of Indonesia's Transport Safety Board, said the plane emptied fuel and returned to Singapore to make an emergency landing shortly after it had taken off from the island republic.

But rumours were already spreading rapidly. Kompas, a leading Indonesian newspaper, reported on its website that it was 'suspected that a Qantas plane exploded in the air near Batam.'

The report appeared to gain credence as a result of people on the ground telling Indonesian media that they had seen an aircraft on fire after hearing a loud explosion.

Fairfax Media in Australia quoted an anonymous Qantas pilot as saying that engines were routinely shut down on aircraft which fly around the world but 'it must have been quite a catastrophic failure if it blew parts off an engine.'

Making safe: Fire engines spray gallons of water over the plane's engine

Mammoth: The huge aircraft was carrying 459 passengers and crew

Near-miss: Damage to the wing of the plane, left, was photographed by passenger Christopher Lee and right, another part of the plane that was found in western Indonesia

A Qantas jet suffered a similar incident in August when an engine on a flight to San Francisco exploded, causing debris to tear holes in the engine cover.

Investigators with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found the engine's turbine blades had either fractured or broken away. The cause of that explosion in the Boeing 747's Rolls Royce RB211 engine is still under investigation.

Qantas denied there had been an explosion today and said the plane landed safely with no injuries.

The flight is a regular service that flies between Sydney, Singapore and London. The route is usually flown by one of Qantas' six Airbus A380 that were introduced into service in 2008. Qantas' A380s can carry up to 525 people.

Blast: Indonesian officials hold a large section of the plane's debris

A Qantas statement said the double-decker Airbus 380 plane experienced an 'engine issue' soon after taking off from Singapore for Sydney. It made a safe emergency landing in Singapore at 11:45 a.m. local time with 433 passengers and 26 crew on board, the statement said.

'Some media reports suggested the aircraft had crashed. These reports are incorrect. No Qantas aircraft has crashed,' it said.

Qantas chief executive officer Alan Joyce said the airline is now suspending all flights of its six Airbus A380 jetliners.

Mr Joyce told a news conference in Sydney: 'We will suspend those A380 services until we are completely confident that Qantas safety requirements have been met.'

There are 37 of the aircraft in operation around the world, being flown by Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Lufthansa and Air France.

'We have decided that we will suspend all A380 takeoffs until we are fully comfortable that sufficient information has been obtained about QF32,' said the chief executive of Qantas, Mr Alan Joyce.

'We will suspend those A380 services until we are completely confident that Qantas safety requirements have been met.'

The company said it was arranging hotel rooms in Singapore for passengers and crew of the affected flight.

'We are currently planning for an aircraft to depart for Singapore to bring passengers back to Sydney tomorrow morning,' a spokesman added.

Qantas A380s use Rolls-Royce RR.L Trent 900 engines. Shares in Rolls-Royce slumped 1.2 per cent in early-morning trading following the incident.

source :dailymail

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