If things do come in threes, expect another emergency landing any time now
An incident a few days ago when an American Airlines Boeing 757 made an emergency landing in Miami after part of the fuselage peeled back in flight sent chills down the spines of nervous passengers and frequent fliers alike. Now comes a report of a Qantas Airbus 380 super-jumbo making an emergency landing in Singapore after blowing out an engine erlier today. Flight QF34 had been en route to Sydney but returned to Singapore when the Rolls-Royce engine blew. Australia’s legacy airline, which has thankfully and proudly never had a crash in its 90-year history, immediately grounded all six of its A-380s.
The four-engine A-380 is designed to fly with just two of these enormous powerplants operating, and the captain informed crew and passengers of “engine trouble” and said they had to dump fuel before landing. All of the 433 passengers and 26 crew left the aircraft via stairways rolled up to the plane; no evacuation chutes were used.
The Associated Press reported, “After the plane touched down in Singapore, 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 damaged.” Experts called it “uncontained engine failure,” which is a gentle way of describing turbine debris that punctures the engine casing and cowling.
AP also reported that, “Witnesses on the western Indonesian island of Batam, near Singapore, reported hearing a large blast and seeing debris — including a massive red panel with a white Qantas streak — falling onto houses, an elementary school and a nearby shopping mall. No one was injured…The engine trouble happened 15 minutes after takeoff from Singapore at 9:56 a.m. and before the flight had time to approach Indonesia’s Mount Merapi, which has erupted freqently over the past 10 days. The plane landed after one hour and 50 minutes.”
Bambang Ervan, an Indonesian Transport Ministry spokesman said the engine issue had no connection with Mount Merapi, an Indonesian volcano currently erupting, even though it has spewed 13 times since Monday causing aircraft rerouting and several international flight cancelletions.
Among the 37 A-380s currently in service: 13 with Emirates, 11 with Singapore Airlines, six with Qantas, four with Air France and three with Lufthansa, and there here have been incidents before. In September 2009, a Singapore Airlines A380 returned to Paris after an engine malfunction. Just this past March 31, a Qantas A380 blew two tires on landing in Sydney after a flight from Singapore, which is unrelated to a blown engine. In August of this year, a Lufthansa crew shut down one of the engines before landing at Frankfurt a cockpit indicator gave out “confusing” data.
I’m not generally superstitions — we even have a black cat named Johnny Cash — but I do believe that when there are two “somethings,” there will be a third, so I’m wondering which carrier will have the next emergency landing situation.