Rolls-Royce locates engine fault behind Qantas oil fire

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Rolls-Royce pinpointed on Friday the failure of a "specific component" in its Trent 900 engine as the case of an oil fire which forced a Qantas A380 superjumbo into an emergency landing last week.

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

The British company said that it would replace the faulty part.

"Safety continues to be Rolls-Royce's highest priority," it added.

Qantas said on Thursday that it had grounded its Airbus A380 superjumbos until further notice, after a mid-air engine blowout last week prompted serious safety worries over the world's biggest passenger jet.

Rolls-Royce chief executive John Rose said on Friday that the problem "will have an impact" on the company's earnings during its current financial year.

The company's share price has already taken a battering in recent days although it shot up 3.51 percent to 604.5 pence in midday trading on Friday on London's benchmark FTSE 100, which was down slightly.

"Whilst Rolls-Royce chose not to name the specific component responsible for the Qantas A380 Trent 900 engine oil fire ... there is sufficient information provided by the company today to calm jittery market" nerves, said Howard Wheeldon, an aerospace industry expert at BGC Partners.

But Airbus chairman and chief executive Thomas Enders warned on Friday that the fault would affect deliveries of the A380 superjumbo.

Nevertheless "the reputation of this aircraft will remain untarnished and will even increase in the years ahead," he said.

His comments came as EADS, the European aerospace giant that controls Airbus, raised its outlook for operating profit this year but said the engine incident would setback aircraft deliveries, sending its shares price falling.

Qantas meanwhile has revamped its flight schedule to exclude the six flagship A380s, potentially for weeks, after the blow-out on November 4 which also led to Singapore Airlines grounding three of its superjumbos.

A spokesman told AFP on Thursday that Qantas's A380s, which service long-haul routes connecting Australian cities with Los Angeles and London, would not be used for at least a few days.

The European Aviation Safety Agency has ordered airlines to carry out new inspections of the Rolls-Royce engines on the A380 after analysis of the one that blew up on a Qantas flight.

Qantas is among a group of carriers already conducting urgent safety checks of the Trent 900 engines following the blow-out over the Indonesian island of Batam.

Singapore Airlines put three of its A380s out of action on Wednesday to replace engines after finding unexpected oil stains during tests, while Germany's Lufthansa said it would replace one A380 engine as a precaution.

Rolls-Royce said on Friday that it had conducted engine checks "in parallel with a rigorous examination of all available evidence, including data from the damaged (Qantas) engine and its monitoring system, analysis of recovered material and interrogation of the fleet history."

"These investigations have led Rolls-Royce to draw two key conclusions. First, as previously announced, the issue is specific to the Trent 900.

"Second, the failure was confined to a specific component in the turbine area of the engine. This caused an oil fire, which led to the release of the intermediate pressure turbine disc.

"Rolls-Royce continues to work closely with the investigating authorities. Our process of inspection will continue and will be supplemented by the replacement of the relevant module according to an agreed programme."

© 2010 AFP

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