Only pilots' expertise saved Qantas A380 from disaster following mid-air explosion

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 03, 2010 07:20 hrs

Australian investigators have found a faulty oil pipe in the engine of the Qantas A380 plane, which was forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore following an engine explosion mid-air minutes after taking-off on November 4, adding that the skills of the pilots had saved any further devastation from taking place.

When the Number 2 engine exploded at 7000 feet, fragments of the turbine disc and other engine parts had reportedly torn through the wing and struck the fuselage, wrecking many critical flight systems and causing fuel to stream from the craft.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Martin Dolan as saying that the flight was returned to the runway safely only because of the expertise of the "flight crew".

''The aircraft would not have arrived safely in Singapore without the focused and effective action of the flight crew,'' he added.

Investigators have reportedly found that pilots had faced a number of warnings that alerted them to the mid-air incident, including damage to two independent hydraulic systems and electricity failure. There were also multiple brake system warnings and the wing slats were inoperative, the report said.

''Reverse thrust was only available from the No 3 engine, no leading edge slats were available, there was limited aileron and spoiler control, anti-skid braking was restricted to the body landing gear only, there was limited nose wheel steering and that the nose was likely to pitch up on touchdown,'' the paper quoted investigators as saying in the report.

The flight computer indicated that they could not apply maximum braking until the nose wheel was on the runway.

After the autopilot function faltered, the pilot in command, Richard de Crespigny, decided to fly the stricken craft manually from 1000 feet. He managed to get the main wheels down on the runway, the damaged front wheels six seconds later and threw the Number 3 engine into maximum reverse thrust, pulling up the aircraft on the runway with just 150 metres to spare, the report said.

However the pilots could not shut down the Number 1 engine using either the emergency shut-off or inbuilt fire extinguishers as fuel continued to leak out, in the vicinity of hot brakes. Firefighters on the ground drowned the engine in foam and managed to shut it off, it added. (ANI)

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