Qantas has suspended all A380 takeoffs after a dramatic emergency landing in Singapore.
Qantas flight QF32 turned back due to an engine problem six minutes into its Sydney-bound flight from Singapore, and landed trailing smoke from a damaged engine.
It was the first mid-air emergency involving the Airbus superjumbo.
Passengers recounted hearing a loud boom, and residents of Batam island off Indonesia collected pieces of debris marked with Qantas’ distinctive red logo.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce fronted the Australian media shortly after the plane landed at 11:45am local time at Singapore’s Changi airport.
He stressed that his company was taking the incident very seriously.
The double-decker plane, which had taken off from Singapore bound for Sydney carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew, dumped fuel over Indonesia before returning to the city-state’s Changi Airport.
“The flight has landed safely at Changi Airport and there are no passengers or crew injured,” an Australian foreign department statement said.
Six fire engines swarmed the A380 on landing, spraying liquid on it, according to an AFP reporter at the Singapore airport.
One of the engines on the four-engined plane’s left wing was blackened and its rear casing was missing.
Singapore Airlines keeps using A380s
Singapore Airlines told SBS it would be continuing to fly its A380 services despite the issue with Qantas flight QF32 over Singapore.
The airline’s Australian public relations manager, Susan Bredow, said the airline would operate its A380 services as normal.
The company “doesn’t see this as a major case with all the aircraft” and that “the Qantas issue is very much a one off,” Bre
A Singapore Airlines A380 flight left Sydney earlier this afternoon for Singapore.
Interviewed on CNN, passenger Ulf Waschbusch said his fellow passengers had remained calm, and he paid “kudos to the flight crew” for their handling of the incident.
Debris slams into Batam
Metal debris including a part bearing the airline’s red-and-white “flying kangaroo” emblem slammed into industrial and residential areas of the Indonesian city of Batam, opposite Singapore.
“I didn’t see a plane crash but I heard a loud explosion in the air. There were metal shards coming down from the sky into an industrial area in Batam,” witness Noor Kanwa told AFP.
Another witness described hearing a deafening screeching sound, and said Batam residents came out of their homes to observe the superjumbo circling as it used up its fuel before attempting to land.
“I was driving near a residential estate when suddenly I heard a thunderous braking sound,” 35-year-old driver Ricky said.
“Then three or four pieces of metal fell from the sky, each not longer than a metre (yard). They fell into a field,” he added.
‘Engine issue’ blamed
Australian flag-carrier Qantas, which prides itself as the world’s safest airline with no fatal jetliner crashes in its 90-year history, blamed an “engine issue” for the incident but gave no further details.
“In line with procedure, the pilot sought priority clearance for its return to Singapore,” the airline said.
According to Qantas, flight QF32 was equipped with four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines.
“We will work with Qantas to identify what the problem is,” a spokesman for the British engine maker told Dow Jones Newswires.
Airbus ‘operating well’
A spokesman for Airbus, a division of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS) that is based in the French city of Toulouse, declined to comment on the incident but said: “The A380 is operating very well.”
The A380’s very first commercial flight operated by Singapore Airlines was on the same Singapore-Sydney route in October 2007.
Since then, fuel and computer glitches have grounded several A380s and at least one Air France flight was forced to turn around and land in New York after problems with its navigation system in November 2009.
In April, a Qantas A380 damaged tyres on landing from Singapore in Sydney, showing sparks and scaring passengers.
Shares plunge on ‘crash’ news
Qantas shares plunged 3.75 percent in Sydney to 2.82 Australian dollars on initial reports of a crashed plane but rallied after the A380 landed and later stood at 2.89 dollars.
The plane is the largest passenger jet in operation, with 50 percent more floor space than Boeing’s veteran 747 jumbo. The A380 can carry up to 853 passengers in an all-economy configuration.
A total of 37 of the giant jets are in operation, including six by Qantas. Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa are the other operators. Another 234 A380s are on order from airlines, according to Airbus.
Qantas said its A380s operate selected flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles, Singapore and London.
Passengers from the afflicted plane would be accommodated in Singapore until a replacement could be arranged, Qantas said.