At 1145 this morning a Qantas A380 leaving Singapore experienced a significant engine failure, requiring an emergency landing. Early reports indicated a loud bang in the engine, the rear portion of the nacelle being ripped off, and debris found over Batam Island in Indonesia, near Singapore, and a 7-8 inch hole in the aircraft’s wing.

Apparently the failure came at full climb power 4-5 minutes after the start of the flight, and after burning fuel for more than an hour, the aircraft made a safe landing at Singapore.

This has caused Qantas to immediately suspend all A380 operations while it investigates the cause of the engine failure. Unfortunately for Rolls-Royce, this is the most serious of a recent spate of events involving the Trent 900 engine on the A380, including a recent in-flight engine shutdown on a Lufthansa A380. Here is Rolls-Royce’s statement on QF32.

Combined with the test problems and delays for the Trent 1000 for the Boeing 787, which had an uncontained failure on the test stand, Rolls-Royce seems to suddenly come upon a series of technical problems that are uncharacteristic.

With the potential loss of a significant portion of the narrow-body market to the PW 1000G that will replace the IAE V2500 on the Airbus NEO, the Trent and wide body market will become the primary cash generators for Rolls-Royce. Rolls can ill afford additional incidents like this that result in the grounding of an airline’s fleet, or delays in new programs which could negatively impact its competitive position on wide body programs that offer a choice of engines.

Rolls-Royce is a strong company that will certainly correct any issues with both the Trent 900 on the A380 and Trent 1000 on the Boeing 787. The question is what it may cost them in the interim.

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