Qantas A380 blast 'ruptured fuel pipe'
Sydney - The Qantas Airbus A380 that experienced an engine blast en route to Sydney, suffered a ruptured fuel pipe in the incident which could have caused a disastrous mid-air explosion, reports said on Friday.
The Sydney Morning Herald said that official preliminary reports showed elements from the exploding engine ripped through the wing, narrowly missing a fuel tank and severing a fuel pipe.
Qantas refused to comment on the damage to the aircraft, which was carrying 466 passengers and crew, or on whether more than 50 warnings of system failures were sent to the cockpit during the emergency.
"We're not going to speculate on that," a spokesperson said, adding that the airline was still carrying out its own checks on its six A380 planes which have been grounded since the November 4 incident.
The A380 superjumbo had to make an emergency landing in Singapore shortly after take-off following the engine blast, which sent metal fragments flying into the aircraft's wing and showering down to the ground below.
Richard Woodward from the Australian and International Pilots Association, who said he had spoken to the pilots who brought QF32 safely back to Singapore, said the damage to the craft was such that it could have exploded.
"That depends whether there is an ignition source of course... and I don't think any of us know that," he told ABC Radio.
Qantas 'very lucky'
"I know that the fuel pipe was severed because the crew had trouble transferring fuel around and there was certainly an indication from the airplane that they couldn't transfer fuel so that's probably the reason."
Adrian Mouritz, head of aerospace and aviation engineering at Melbourne's RMIT University, said Qantas was "very, very lucky" nothing ignited the thousands of litres of jet fuel in the A380's tank.
"If that fuel ignited, that aircraft would have exploded," he told The Sydney Morning Herald.
The incident is still under investigation but Qantas has said that as many as 40 Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines fitted to the A380s in use around the world may need to be replaced.
Woodward said the fact that the aircraft survived such bad damage and was still flying well proved its strength.
"It's absolutely a testimony to the aircraft and its structures," he said.