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Qantas grounds A380 planes after midair engine failure

A Qantas Airbus A380 was forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore after experiencing engine trouble. It is one of the most serious safety incidents to date for the world's largest passenger plane.

The damaged engine

Passengers heard a loud boom and saw flames

A Qantas A380 with 459 people on board made an emergency landing in Singapore on Thursday. There were no injuries to passengers or crew, officials said.

"We are obviously taking this very seriously, because it was a significant engine failure," Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce told reporters in Sydney.

Australia's Qantas Airways said it was grounding all six of its A380s - the world's biggest passenger jet - pending a full investigation.

"We will suspend those A380 services until we are completely confident that Qantas safety requirements have been met," Joyce said.

A380

Qantas is grounding all A380s pending an investigation

According to Joyce one of flight QF32's four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines had failed. The British engine maker pledged to work with Qantas to identify the problem.

Airbus said the Qantas incident had been "significant" but stressed the A380 was safe to fly on three engines.

"We are not playing down the incident, but it is covered in the certification procedures," a spokesman for the European consortium said.

Terrifying flight

The A380 has had technical problems in the past, but Thursday's incident was the Airbus superjumbo's first mid-air emergency.

The double-decker plane carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew developed engine trouble just six minutes into a flight from Singapore to Sydney.

German passenger Ulf Waschbusch said there was a loud boom and flames on the plane's left wing soon after take-off.

Passengers disembarking

No one on board was injured

"Something ruptured the left wing," Waschbusch, a technology company executive based in Singapore, told the AFP news agency after disembarking. "It was the scariest thing I have ever seen," he added.

Metal debris including a part bearing the airline's red and white "flying kangaroo" emblem slammed into industrial and residential areas of the Indonesian city of Batam, south of Singapore.

The plane circled over Indonesian territory for nearly two hours, dumping fuel prior to the emergency landing at Singapore's Changi Airport, Waschbusch said.

It landed trailing smoke from a blackened engine and was immediately swarmed by six fire engines spraying liquid on it.

History of technical problems

Qantas has never had a fatal accident in its 90-year history and there have been no fatal incidents involving A380s, which were launched in 2005.

But since the A380's first commercial flight in October 2007, fuel and computer glitches have grounded several A380s and at least one Air France flight was forced to turn around and land in New York after problems with its navigation system in November 2009.

In April, a Qantas A380's tires were damaged on landing in Sydney, showering sparks and scaring passengers.

A total of 37 A380s are now flying commercially with Qantas, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Air France-KLM. Apart from Qantas, no other airlines plan to ground their own superjumbo fleets.

Author: Natalia Dannenberg (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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