Opinion Brief

Is the world's largest passenger jet a death trap?

An Airbus A380 superjumbo jet suffered a massive engine failure over Indonesia this week, raising new concerns about the plane's safety

Australian airline Qantas has grounded its fleet of six A380 Airbuses after one of them was forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore because one of its four engines "disintegrated" in flight. A blast in the No. 2 engine apparently sent debris up through the wing, a potentially very dangerous occurance. It was the third incident involving an A380 superjumbo jet in as many months, and some of the 440 Qantas passengers said they felt "lucky to be alive." Should fliers by alarmed? (Watch a passenger's footage from the crash)

This is certainly frightening: Qantas "claims there was no explosion," says Dan Nosowitz at Popular Science, but that "doesn't exactly jibe with passenger accounts of 'a big boom.'" And after all the "struggles" and delays Airbus had to overcome to get these massive, double-decker 525-seaters to market, passengers are going to be nervous until they get some straight answers."Airbus A380's engine disintegrates over Indonesia, manages to land safely"

The scariest part is all the unknowns: This was an "uncontained engine failure" — meaning the explosion blew parts out of the engine case, says Brett Snyder at BNET. That's rare, but it's no reason for Qantas to "instantly ground" an entire fleet. There must be more to the story — maybe Qantas was already worried about the A380 and this was the "final straw," or maybe the blast caused "greater damage" than reported."Qantas grounds A380s after engine failure: There's more to this story"

Answers are on the way: There is simply no way to read this near disaster, says Ben Sandilands at Plane Talking, until the investigation is complete. Aviation authorities will interview the pilots and review the maintenance and flight records of all four Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines on this plane, and on every other Airbus 380. The good news is that whatever they find will help prevent "future in-flight incidents.""What happens next in the Qantas A380 incident?"

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SEE MORE OF THE WEEK'S COVERAGE OF AIRPLANE SAFETY:Invasion of the body scannersAirplane safety: The musical?The 'air traffic controller kid' outrage

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