Singapore Airlines (SINGF) pulled three of its A380 superjumbos from service Wednesday after tests uncovered problems with the planes' Rolls-Royce engines less than a week after an engine on a Qantas A380 exploded shortly after take-off.
Tests revealed oil stains in three engines on three of the airline's A380s, Singapore Airlines said in a statement. The planes, in Melbourne, Sydney and London, will be flown to Singapore, where they'll be fitted with new engines, the airline said.
"We apologize to our customers for flight disruptions that may result and we seek their understanding," airline spokesman Nicholas Ionides said in a statement.
Last week, Qantas grounded its fleet of A380s - the world's newest and largest airliner - after one of the aircraft's Rolls-Royce engines burst during a flight from Singapore to Sydney. The explosion showered debris over Indonesia's Batam island. The plane, carrying 466 people, made a safe emergency landing in Singapore.
Superjumbos Get Grounded
On Monday, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said tests had uncovered oil leaks in the turbine area of three engines on three different A380s. All six of the Australian airline's A380s remained grounded Wednesday.
London-based Rolls-Royce, an aerospace, power systems and defense company that is separate from the manufacturer of Rolls-Royce cars, had recommended a series of checks for the Trent 900 engines that are used in the A380s operated by Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Germany's Lufthansa.
Singapore Airlines grounded its entire fleet of 11 A380s following last Thursday's engine explosion on Qantas. After initial checks, Singapore returned those to service on Friday. However, on Wednesday, based on fresh analysis of the tests, Singapore took three of its A380s out of service again, due to oil stain results.
Singapore's eight other A380s, also flying with Trent 900 engines, remain in service.
Bryony Duncan-Smith, a Sydney-based spokeswoman for Singapore Airlines, said she did not know whether the oil staining found in the Singapore engines was similar to the oil leaks found on the Qantas planes.
The affected engines will all be replaced with Trent 900s, Duncan-Smith said. The airline does not know how long that will take, she said.
Cause of Explosion Unclear
Rolls-Royce did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment Wednesday. On Monday, it issued a statement saying it had made progress in understanding what caused the Qantas engine to burst, but offered no details on what that cause might be.
Joyce said Monday that Qantas was focusing its investigation on the oil leaks, which he said were abnormal and should not be occurring on new engines.
Singapore said the engine changes don't affect its eight other A380s at this point.
The Qantas and Singapore incidents are not the first problems Rolls-Royce have faced with its engines. In September 2009, a Singapore Airlines A380 was forced to return to Paris mid-flight after an engine malfunction. Last August, a Lufthansa crew shut down one of its engines as a precaution before landing in Frankfurt after receiving confusing information on a cockpit indicator. (The same month, Boeing also said a Rolls-Royce engine had shredded itself and its casing during testing.)
On Tuesday, the European Aviation Safety Agency said it was closely monitoring the probe into the Qantas incident. The agency issued orders twice this year advising airlines about extra inspections or repairs needed for the Trent 900s.