Pipe stress caused A380 diversion

2012-03-13 10:00

Sydney - An engine oil leak that forced a Qantas jet carrying British actor Stephen Fry to divert to Dubai was caused by pipe stress seen in a number of A380 jets worldwide, Australian officials said on Tuesday.

The leak, which occurred in one of the Airbus superjumbo's four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, forced the London-bound Qantas flight to reroute four hours after leaving Singapore in November.

It came one year to the day after an A380 Trent 900 engine exploded over Indonesia, punching a hole in the Qantas aircraft's wing and forcing an emergency landing in Singapore.

A manufacturing issue was ultimately found to be at fault.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said the November leak was "part of a wider pattern of Trent 900 series engine oil leaks in A380 aircraft that were reported to the engine manufacturer between August 2010 and November 2011".

"As of 1 December 2011, there had been a total of 16 reported oil leakage events involving the external HP/IP oil feed pipe connection on Trent engines across the worldwide A380 fleet," the ATSB said.

Increased risk

Rolls-Royce had identified that clipping the pipe in question to an adjacent hot air tube and support bracket was putting it under excessive stress and causing its feed connection to leak from a "compromised seal".

Most of the leaks occurred in pipes that were removed and reinstalled during global engine inspections ordered after the November 2010 explosion and Rolls-Royce found that had also "increased the risk of oil leaks", the ATSB said.

Though it was a recurring and widespread issue the ATSB said it had not identified any "organisational or systemic issues" and said Qantas, Airbus and Rolls-Royce had all taken safety action.

A root cause analysis by Rolls-Royce identified a batch of piping with "below-specification" finish that was removed from service, and the engine-maker was in the process of modifying the way the pipes were secured.

Qantas had carried out checks at "regular intervals" and Airbus issued a directive to operators about the issue, the ATSB added.

Embattled Qantas, which grounded its entire global fleet in October due to a bitter industrial dispute with staff, said at the time of the leak that there was no link with the engine blast of a year earlier.

Thanks to Fry's presence on the leak-hit flight, details of the diversion to Dubai were relayed to his more than three million followers on Twitter.