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.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
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.
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."
SEE MORE OF THE WEEK'S COVERAGE OF AIRPLANE SAFETY:
• Airplane safety: The musical?
• The 'air traffic controller kid' outrage
Create an account with the same email registered to your subscription to unlock access.