SYDNEY — A Qantas flight bound for Buenos Aires returned to Sydney on Monday due to technical problems, the second safety incident for the airline since one of its Airbus A380 superjumbos made an emergency landing due to an engine failure.
Qantas has grounded its six Airbus A380s as it investigates the November 4 partial disintegration of a Rolls-Royce engine and has relied on its 26 Boeing 747s for its busiest long-haul routes.
Monday’s incident follows a media report that Rolls-Royce may need to replace another 29 A380 engines, threatening airlines with further flight disruptions while the engine maker provides replacements.
The November 4 engine failure — caused by an oil fire — was the most serious incident affecting the world’s largest passenger plane since its launch in 2007 and has hit aviation stocks, with plane maker Airbus warning investors of possible delivery setbacks.
Just two days after the A380 incident, a Qantas Boeing 747 was forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore following an engine failure.
Monday’s incident, due to an electrical fault in a cockpit instrument, adds pressure on Qantas as it tries to maintain its image as one of the world’s safest airlines.
“At the moment we don’t know what caused (Monday’s) issue but believe it is a minor technical fault,” a spokeswoman said.
She added it was not common that technical issues would force an aircraft to return to its departure airport.
Qantas said the flight, with 220 passengers and crew, landed safely.
Qantas promised to keep its six A380s grounded until it was completely assured of safety, but the Sydney Morning Herald said up to 29 engines may need to be replaced by the three airlines — Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Lufthansa — using the Rolls-Royce Trent 900.
“We can’t speak definitively about the number of engines that may ultimately require modification work as it needs to be stressed that investigations are continuing,” said Singapore Airlines in a statement.
“As Rolls-Royce said on Friday, it is working on an agreed program with its customers which will cover the replacement of the relevant module.”
A Qantas spokesman would not confirm the Sydney Morning Herald report and said while more engines may need to be replaced, Qantas was not in position to put a number on it.
Airlines with A380s have been ordered to undertake major tests and modify the engines. Qantas and Singapore Airlines, the two biggest users of the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, have also replaced engines.