And the fun continues…
Qantas under hammer with another fault in new engine
December 9, 2010
QANTAS’S headaches over its fleet of A380 aircraft have been compounded after a defect was found in a newer engine on one of its superjumbos, which is still on the factory floor in France.
The discovery of what is believed be a faulty oil tube in one of the new plane’s Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines has forced the manufacturer to change it, delaying slightly the transfer of ownership of the next superjumbo to Qantas at Airbus’s plant in Toulouse.
Qantas is also due to take delivery of another new A380 - its eighth since 2008 - this month, but its fleet manager has conceded in an email to pilots that “we will be lucky to see it in service by Christmas”.
The airline is desperate to take delivery of the new A380s so that it can fill gaps left in its network by the grounding of most of its existing superjumbo fleet. Only two of its six existing A380s have returned to service since a midair engine explosion on a Qantas superjumbo on November 4.
“One step forward and two back! We can’t take a trick in getting more aircraft into the air and back into service,” Qantas’s fleet manager said in the email to pilots on Tuesday.
The latest revelation comes as Rolls-Royce’s lawyers failed to turn up at the Federal Court in Sydney yesterday to hear Qantas’s compensation case against the British company.
However, Qantas’s lawyers submitted to the court a letter from Rolls-Royce calling for parts of an affidavit detailing arrangements between the two companies to be kept confidential after the Herald made a request for access to the document on Tuesday.
Merrill Lynch estimated yesterday that the grounding could cost Qantas as much as $207 million - $70 million in repair costs and $137 million in lost revenue.
The Qantas fleet manager’s email reveals the extent of the troubles the airline is having in managing its worldwide network, as he highlighted “why it has been so difficult to come up with a long-term plan”.
“As soon as we have some certainty around aircraft availability and firm scheduling we will release a plan where we can tell you when you are likely to fly again,” he wrote to pilots.
Qantas declined to respond to questions from the Herald yesterday.
Insiders believe it could be months before Qantas can return the A380s to service between Australia and Los Angeles, one of its two key international routes.
The latest headaches are also said to highlight Qantas’s decision early this decade to bet on both the A380 and Boeing’s long-delayed 787 Dreamliners as the core of its replacement aircraft.
Qantas has said in court documents that it would be “uncommercial” to fly its A380s between Australia and the US while engine thrust restrictions imposed by Rolls-Royce remained in place. It means the superjumbos will be able to carry only 80 passengers instead of the usual 450.
Qantas has been forced to operate more of its ageing fleet of 747-400s - some of which are due to be retired shortly - on the US route.
They are less appealing than the A380s because they lack products such as lie-flat beds in business class. The other three airlines on the route have lie-flat beds in their business cabins.
Qantas has two A380s flying the Sydney-Singapore-London route but its other four remain grounded.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said yesterday that three out of 45 Rolls-Royce engines checked since an order was made on December 2 had failed inspections.
Makes you wonder why SIA’s SIN-LAX route is making the stop at NRT, and is following the route over the Aleutian Islands to the US.