Qantas Airways (ASX:QAN)
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Airlines in Europe and Asia Thursday said they would keep flying their Airbus A380 fleets after Australian airline Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN.AU) grounded its six Airbus A380 super-jumbo jets after a mid-air engine failure.
A Rolls-Royce Group PLC (RR.LN) Trent 900 engine failed on a Sydney-bound Qantas flight carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew, forcing it to return to Singapore for an emergency landing. Qantas said it would ground its A380 fleet until it was certain the engines were safe.
Spokesmen for Airbus, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. (EADSY), and Rolls-Royce said the companies would work closely with Qantas to determine the cause of the incident.
However, airlines including Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA.XE), Air France-KLM (AF.FR), Emirates, and Singapore Airlines (C6L.SG) said they would keep flying their A380 aircraft while they await further information on the problems that affected the Qantas plane.
Some A380s are equipped with Trent 900 engines from Rolls-Royce while others use engines made by Engine Alliance, a joint venture between General Electric Co. (GE) and United Technologies Corp.'s (UTX) Pratt & Whitney unit.
The A380s operated by Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa are powered by the Rolls-Royce engines, while those of Air France and Emirates are equipped with the alternative engines.
A total of 37 double-decker A380s currently are in service with five airlines. In addition to Qantas' six planes, Singapore Airlines operates 11, Emirates 13, Air France four and Lufthansa three.
The incident is potentially more bad news for Rolls-Royce, which been in disputes with Boeing Co. (BA) over problems developing new engines for the new 787 Dreamliner. Boeing has blamed problems with the engine development for delaying the whole Dreamliner project.
The European Aviation Safety Agency said Thursday it is in contact with both Airbus and Rolls-Royce regarding the engine failure on the Qantas plane. "If we identify any issue that could affect flight safety then we will of course take immediate action. We take these issues very seriously," a spokesman for the Cologne, Germany-based agency told Dow Jones Newswires.
EASA is involved in the Qantas incident because it certified the plane's Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines as well as the A380 airframe.
The investigation into the cause of the engine failure is being led by the Australian Transport Safety Board.
This wasn't the first mid-air emergency caused by engine problems on an A380, though it was the first to result in pieces of the engine breaking off. In August, pilots of a Lufthansa A380 flying from Tokyo to Frankfurt shut down one engine after sensors indicated an oil-pressure problem. The plane landed safely in Frankfurt. In September 2009, a Singapore Airlines A380 traveling from Paris to Singapore suffered an engine problem, returned to Paris and landed without injuries.
There have been no accidents and no fatalities involving A380s since the aircraft entered into service with Singapore Airlines in 2007.
Airbus has sold a total of 234 A380s to date. Other airlines among the 12 that are awaiting deliveries of A380s with Rolls-Royce engines include Malaysian Airline System Bhd. (3786.KU), British Airways PLC (BAY.LN), China Southern Airlines (1055.HK) and Virgin Atlantic.
At 1105 GMT, EADS shares traded down 3.1%, underperforming the broadly firmer market with the CAC-40 index up 2.3%. Rolls-Royce's shares traded down 25 pence, or 3.8%, at 629 pence, making it the biggest faller in the benchmark FTSE 100 index, which traded up 1.8%.
-By David Pearson, Dow Jones Newswires; +331 4017 1740, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Enda Curran, Cynthia Koons in Sydney, Sarah Sloat in Frankfurt and Kaveri Niththyananthan in London contributed to this report.)