Thursday, November 4, 2010

Qantas: 'There was No Explosion' - - - Oh-kay

The Lemming generally doesn't put 'news' in this blog, but something in this article was too weird to ignore:

"Qantas Grounds All A380s After Midair Scare"
Associated Press via FOXNews (November 4, 2010)

"Qantas grounded its Airbus A380 fleet after one of the superjumbo jets blew out an engine Thursday, shooting flames and raining large metal chunks before making a safe emergency landing in Singapore with 459 people aboard.

"It was most serious midair incident involving the double-decker A380, the world's largest and latest airliner, since it debuted in October 2007 with Singapore Airlines flying it to Sydney -- the same route that Qantas flight QF34 was flying when it was stricken.

"Qantas said there had been no explosion, but witnesses aboard the plane and on the ground reported blasts. Officials in Indonesia said the engine trouble could not have been related to recent volcanic eruptions of Mount Merapi, some 800 miles to the east...."

The Lemming can understand why someone in Qantas might say that 'there had been no explosion.' It seems that the first thing some bureaucrats and managers, faced with an unpleasant fact, do is say it ain't so and fire up the paper shredders.

Understandable or not, the Lemming doesn't think it's wise to say "there had been no explosion," particularly when witnesses heard one and an international news service took pictures of what resulted from the non-explosion that didn't happen:


Reuters, via Telegraph.co.uk, used w/o permission.
The A380 engine that didn't explode.


Reuters, via Telegraph.co.uk, used w/o permission.
Debris on the ground, from the explosion that didn't happen. (Batam, Indonesia)

Still, whoever made that denial on behalf of Qantas could have done worse. We could have learned that the Airbus A380 landed because of something like an abrupt alteration of structural parameters resulting in compression wave propagation through surrounding gaseous medium and distribution of component materials over adjacent terrain.

The Lemming isn't sure which would sound more suspicious: flat-out denial in the face of evidence, or trying to bury an unpleasant fact under a pile of prolixity.

Other articles have pointed out that the Airbus A380 is safe. They're probably right.

The pilot, quoted in a CNN article, handled the situation better. He calmly told passengers that there was a "technical issue." Brief, accurate, and appropriately bereft of emotional content.

"There was no explosion?" That sounds more like implausible denial.

More:
From that CNN article:

"Qantas pilot to passengers: 'We have a technical issue' "
CNN (November 4, 2010)

"After part of an engine fell off a Qantas plane in mid-flight Thursday, a passenger shooting a personal video recorded the pilot announcing, calmly, that the flight was experiencing a 'technical issue.'

" 'I do apologize,' the pilot begins. 'I'm sure you are aware we have a technical issue with our No. 2 engine. We have dealt with the situation. The aircraft is secure at this stage. We're going to have to hold for sometime whilst we do lighten our load by dumping some fuel.'

"The pilot then tells passengers on the Airbus A380 that there is a 'checklist we have to perform.'..."

The Lemming would much rather have a pilot say something like that.

Consider this alternative:
  • You're looking out the window, somewhere over the Pacific
  • You see part of an engine blow out, spraying
    • Flames
    • Debris
    • Smoke
  • You hear a BANG!!
  • The pilot's voice comes over the cabin speakers, saying:
    • "There was no explosion"
Reassuring? The Lemming doesn't think so.

It could be worse, though. The pilot could start singing "Daisy, Daisy," like the HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey."
Update (November 24, 2010)

Sounds like someone in Qantas got a reality check.

"Two airlines ground A380s after emergency landing"
Reuters (November 4, 2010)

"Qantas Airways and Singapore Airlines suspended flights of Airbus A380 superjumbos on Thursday after an engine appeared to break apart in flight, forcing a Qantas jet to make an emergency landing in Singapore.

"Indonesian TV showed pictures of debris on a nearby island which it said belonged to the Qantas Airways plane, and one passenger aboard flight QF32 reported hearing a 'massive bang.' Qantas described it as a 'significant' engine failure.

"Authorities said none of the 459 people on board were hurt.

"Qantas and Singapore Airlines both grounded their fleet of A380s and British engine maker Rolls-Royce issued a statement urging operators of the aircraft to perform safety checks on its Trent 900 engines.

"German airline Lufthansa said it would conduct those checks without interrupting flights.

" 'This was a significant engine failure,' Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce told reporters in Sydney. 'We are not underestimating the significance of this issue.'

"Rolls-Royce, whose shares were down more than 5 percent, said earlier it was working with authorities to understand the incident and Airbus, whose shares fell 4 percent, said it would provide full technical assistance to Australian and French accident investigators.

"One of the Airbus A380's four Rolls-Royce engines failed minutes after it had left Singapore for Sydney. The flight had begun in London.

"Passengers said they saw parts of the engine fall off.

" 'I just heard this massive bang, like a shotgun going off,' Tyler Wooster told Australia's Network Nine television. 'Part of the skin had peeled off and you could see the foam underneath, pieces of broken wires sticking out.'

"Qantas, which operates six A380s, said it was grounding the aircraft pending a full investigation...."
Updated (November 4, 2010)

More, about the engine that didn't explode.

"Debris rains down from sky on charmed islanders"
Karen Kissane, The Age (Australia) (November 4, 2010)

"A STAFF member was the first person in Elsadai school on Batam to notice. She was watching a Qantas plane skim across the sky when suddenly she heard what sounded like a huge explosion. She later told the school principal, Christy Sembel, 'The aeroplane make a noise like "phwoooar"!'..."


(Reuters, via The Age, used w/o permission)
"An engine casing that fell on Batam, and a piece of debris that fell through the roof of Elsadai school. Photo: Reuters"

"Qantas engine failure "the scariest thing I've seen""
Sanjeev Miglani, Reuters (November 4, 2010)

"Passengers on the giant Qantas Airways jet forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore on Thursday said they heard a loud bang and saw pieces of one of the engines fall off soon after take-off for Sydney.

"The Airbus A380, which had originated in London and was carrying 459 people, suffered failure of one of its four engines.

"Australian officials said no one on board was injured. One passenger said an explosion ripped off the engine's rear casing.

" 'I just heard this massive bang, like a shotgun going off,' Tyler Wooster told Australia's Network Nine television. 'Part of the skin had peeled off and you could see the foam underneath, pieces of broken wires sticking out.'

"Thursday's incident was one of most serious for the A380, the world's biggest passenger jet, in its three years of commercial flight. Qantas said it was grounding its fleet of six A380s pending a full investigation.

" 'I was sitting over the wing, where the No. 2 engine is. I was looking out of the window on the tarmac as we took off,' Ulf Waschbusch, another passenger, told Reuters.

"Former aircraft engineer Neil Shephard was also on board.

" 'Four or five minutes after the flight there was a loud bang. The pilot said there was a technical issue with the plane and then we circled around for an hour to dump the fuel,' he told Reuters.

" 'During the landing, it was a bit wobbly. We could not tell the extent of the problem until we got out of the plane where we could see one hole around six to seven inches wide on the wing. The pilot did a good job, it could have been worse.'..."

Yep, "it could have been worse."

2 comments:

Brigid said...

Something is missing: "first some bureaucrats and managers"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

(While rubbing the back of my neck) Heh-heh. Yeah. Found it, fixed it.

Thanks!

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