On November 4th, 2010 Qantas A380 VH-OQA (“Nancy Bird Walton”) was operating flight QF32 from Singapore to Sydney. During the climb out from Singapore, the number 2 Rolls Royce Trent 900 engine’s Intermediate Pressure Turbine appears to have failed and flown apart, sending bits through the aircraft’s wing in multiple locations and raining debris down on Batam island, Indonesia. After assessing the problem, determining their options and burning off fuel, the crew were able to return the aircraft to Singapore for a safe landing.
This incident, in conjunction with some other recent engine failures on Qantas 747s, has overshadowed Qantas’ 90th birthday celebrations. While the story is still unfolding and it will be some weeks before the ATSB’s preliminary investigations are completed, we have decided to quickly produce an episode dedicated to the incident.
To begin with, we talk to Captain Richard Woodward, Vice President of the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA). He discusses what the crew would have experienced on board as the incident unfolded, including the systems alerts & alarms, the processes to be followed and the roles over the various people on board. He also discusses the A380’s systems & redundancies and the options available to the crew when flying & landing a crippled aircraft.
We then chat with Steve Purvinas of the Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) about the changes that have occurred in Qantas as they have moved from an exclusively in-house engineering operation to one that relies more on outsourced maintenance performed overseas. We discuss the implications of the changes and other paths Qantas could have followed.
This episode was conceived, implemented and released within the week of the incident occurring as we felt it important to present our listeners with good background information about the aircraft, the crew’s likely experience and some of the changes at Qantas that have seen their engineering force reduced significantly compared to their heyday of the 70’s & 80’s.