Thursday, January 5, 2012

"Nancy Bird Walton" could return to service as early as March 2012

Qantas says the Airbus A380-842 that was badly damaged following an uncontained engine failure in November 2010, VH-OQA (c/n 14) "Nancy Bird Walton," is finally due to return to service in March.

Repair work on the A380 “is progressing well,” a Qantas spokesman tells Aviation Week. Repairs began in May 2011 and are expected to cost AU$135 million ($139.75 million). In early 2011, Qantas said the aircraft would fly again by the end of that year. However, for the past six months, the airline has signaled that a return to service early this year was more likely.

VH-OQA was forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore due to an uncontained engine failure in one of its Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, with flying debris causing significant structural damage to the aircraft. This incident led Qantas to ground its A380 fleet while inspections were conducted. The engine failure was eventually traced to a Rolls-Royce manufacturing fault.

Despite early speculation that VH-OQA would be written off, the decision was made to repair it. The cost is covered by insurance. The repairs are being carried out at an SIA Engineering Co. (SIAEC) facility in Singapore. Most of the work is being done by a team of up to 40 Airbus employees, although staff from Qantas Engineering and SIAEC also are supporting the effort.

The aircraft required structural wing repairs and the full replacement of the other systems affected, including pneumatic, electrical and hydraulic systems. All of the original engines on VH-OQA have been removed and replaced with new engines supplied by Rolls-Royce.

According to Qantas, the repair work will be certified by Airbus, and the relevant airworthiness authorities are receiving regular briefings and are auditing the work. Airbus and Qantas will carry out flight testing.

While the repairs to VH-OQA are covered by insurance, Qantas last year negotiated an AU$95 million settlement from Rolls-Royce to compensate for the A380 fleet grounding.

(Adrian Schofield - Aviation Week)

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