Airbus warns A380 fire scare will affect deliveries

12th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

An engine fault that led to a fire and forced a Qantas A380 to make an emergency landing last week will slow deliveries of the superjumbo, Airbus said on Friday, the latest bad news for the European giant.

"I do expect that this event ... will impact deliveries, especially in 2011," because of checks and recommended replacements, Airbus chairman and chief executive Thomas Enders said, without giving a specific figure.

Nevertheless, while engineers focus on keeping the active fleet airborne rather than getting new planes in the air, "the reputation of this aircraft will remain untarnished and will even increase in the years ahead," he said.

On Thursday, the European Aviation Safety Agency ordered airlines to carry out new inspections of the affected Rolls-Royce engines on the world's biggest passenger jet following the November 4 fire.

The Australian carrier had to ground its entire fleet of A380s after the mid-air explosion last week which forced the plane to make an emergency landing in Singapore. No one was injured in the incident.

Rolls-Royce said on Friday that "the failure was confined to a specific component in the turbine area of the engine. This caused an oil fire."

The delay announcement is the latest setback for the European plane maker, a subsidiary of aerospace giant EADS, which is reportedly also drafting a global safety warning about electrical faults on some of its popular A320 planes.

The faults can temporarily shut off computer controls and the warning was triggered by an August flight incident involving a series of major electrical malfunctions and twin-engine jet shuddering, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Last week Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch recommended that Airbus "alert all operators of A320-series aircraft of the possibility that an electrical power generation system fault may not be clearly annunciated."

This "may lead to uncommanded rudder trim operation."

Lufthansa said on Wednesday that it was changing an engine on one of its three A380 planes but that it was unrelated to oil leaks detected by other carriers.

Singapore Airlines grounded three of its A380s on Wednesday over problems with the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, joining Qantas in temporarily halting A380 operations.

Other A380 operators, including Air France and the biggest buyer Emirates, are not concerned by the problem as their planes use engines made by the General Electric, Pratt & Whitney and Safran coalition, Engine Alliance.

Airbus had previously said it would deliver 22 A380s this year, against only 10 in 2009.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) on Wednesday voiced its confidence in the A380, saying that it was sticking with its existing firm orders for eight more.

"Just because a car is recalled doesn't mean you can't use it in the meantime... We would not fly the planes unless we are confident they are airworthy," said SIA's chief executive Chew Choon Seng.

Company data this week showed that US aircraft manufacturer Boeing had eclipsed its European rival in the number of net orders received this year, registering 480 to 369 for Airbus.

So far this year Airbus has delivered 417 aircraft, including 15 A380s, and was bolstered by Japan's low-fare Skymark, saying it would buy four A380s, with an option to buy two more, ahead of the announcement of delivery delays.

Meanwhile Airbus's bitter US rival Boeing has halted test flights of its new 787 Dreamliner after an in-flight fire prompted an emergency landing, the latest setback to the troubled jetliner project seen as a rival to the A380.

Airbus had been flying the double-decker A380 for almost three years without major incident.

On Friday, EADS raised its outlook for operating profit this year, although its shares slipped 1.26 percent to 18.77 euros.

Airbus expects to book an overall total of 500 orders this year, well above the previously expected figure of 400, and deliveries should exceed slightly 500, marking a record.

EADS raised its outlook for earnings before interest and tax to a minimum of 1.1 billion euros (1.5 billion dollars) from 1.0 billion euros expected previously.

© 2010 AFP

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