The left inboard engine exploded and rained debris over Batam, Indonesia at 7,000′, including the suspect turbine disc, which still hasn’t been found. There were 466 passengers and crew on board.
Looks like a combination gearbox design/maintenance lubrication/inspection issue known since 2007 … but not relayed by Rolls Royce to Qantas.
Initially a Qantas pilot sitting in the back of the plane reported seeing streaming fluids outside the plane, visible in the entertainment camera view. It took 5 pilots to troubleshoot and land the plane.
Although the seriousness of the incident was initially downplayed, not only was the engine shroud shredded, substantial damage occurred to the left wing, including “shrapnel puncture to the wing, loss of hydraulic functions to the control surfaces and landing-gear, and loss of fuel or other fluid from the aircraft while airborne.” Additionally, a wing spar was blown apart, engine control wires cut, droop nose motor damaged, and the “green” hydraulic system disabled.
Because the left outboard engine could not be shutdown after landing, the cockpit voice recorder continued and erased over the time of the incident. Eventually the engine was smothered with foam and it stopped.
We’ll see if the plane is reparable or not. The left wing and engines would need to be replaced, and the airplane retested and certified again.
As alarming as the engine failure was, of as much concern were the 2 delays in releasing the passengers:
- the Qantas pilots circled over Batam for 2 hours to burn off fuel and evaluate the airplane. A fire in the air will cause loss of control in under 5 minutes, so a more expeditious descent should have been taken. “It took two hours for the pilots to circle and burn fuel, but also to handle the error messages the computer says you need to sort out before landing.”
- because fuel was leaking and the outboard engine could not be shutdown, the passengers were kept on the plane for an hour after landing. There’s no excuse for that, since an evacuation would take several minutes, but a fire would destroy the aircraft in less than a minute on the ground, so passengers should have started disembarking immediately.
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