Qantas unsure when A380s will fly again: CEO

Sunday, 14 November 2010 21:16 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Qantas Airways has been told modifications may be needed to the Rolls-Royce engines on its Airbus A380 fleet and it cannot predict when the aircraft will fly again, Chief Executive Alan Joyce said on Saturday.

“I’m not going to put a deadline on it,” Joyce said at an event to celebrate the airline’s 90th anniversary.

The Australian airline’s six A380s have been grounded for nine days, after an engine partly disintegrated in mid-flight, forcing a fully-laden A380 to make an emergency landing in the worst incident to date for the world’s largest passenger jet.

Rolls-Royce, maker of the Trent 900 engine that partly blew up after an oil fire, has said the failure was caused by a specific component in the engine’s turbine and said it would replace the relevant module on its engines.

Joyce said Rolls-Royce had recommended further checks on A380 engines worldwide and proposed modifications.

“We’re obviously conducting those checks,” he said.

“They are proposing a number of different modifications and a number of different changes. So we will be working closely with them to get the aircraft back in the air as soon as we can. There’s no timeframe on when that will occur.”

Joyce said the aircraft struck by the explosion would not be written off.

Qantas has denied reports its six A380s planes would remain out of action for months. But it will probably take more than a few days to seek clearance from Australia’s aviation regulator to fly the aircraft, a person familiar with the process said.

“Such a submission won’t be happening until the second half of next week at the earliest and possibly later, so I don’t think it’s an accident Qantas drew up a contingency plan not to fly the aircraft well into next month,” the person said.

Qantas has published an interim schedule until late November that excludes the A380, but said the schedule at short notice.

Rolls-Royce shares hit a record high at 661.5 pence on 1 November, three days before the engine failure. The incident saw the stock lose up to 14 percent of its value to a 563 pence low on Monday. It ended the week at 611 pence after it said the profit impact from its difficulties would be modest.

Airbus said on Friday its earnings may be dented and deliveries could be set back because of the A380 engine difficulties. It added that the scale of delays will depend on the amount of work needed by Rolls-Royce to fix the problem.

Keeping the A380 on track and lowering production costs has been a headache for Airbus, even before the Qantas scare.