Qantas A380 blowout plane returns to service

Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:41pm EDT
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By Harry Suhartono

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Australia's Qantas (QAN.AX: Quote) took its repaired A380 superjumbo back to the skies on Saturday, resuming a 3,900 mile journey dramatically interrupted 18 months ago when one of its engines blew up over Indonesia.

After $140 million of repairs, the world's largest jetliner took off for Sydney shortly before midnight, carrying Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce and members of the crew that safely landed the crippled Airbus in Singapore with 440 passengers on board.

"She's running a little late... 18 months," Joyce earlier told reporters under the left wing of the big jet, which was sprayed by shrapnel as the engine blew apart shortly after take-off from Singapore in November 2010.

The return to service of the flagship European jetliner ends a harrowing episode for the airline, planemaker Airbus EAD.PA and engine supplier Rolls-Royce (RR.L: Quote).

Investigators have blamed the incident on a potential manufacturing flaw at Britain's Rolls-Royce, which endured blunt criticism from Joyce following the Trent 900 engine explosion.

Qantas and Airbus said the aircraft is safe and nearly as good as new after going through what they described as the biggest repair job on a single aircraft in aviation history.

The only visible scars are two patches of metal under the left wing where it was pierced by debris, some of which shot out at an angle that narrowly missed the top of the fuselage.

"We believe this aircraft is as good as new. In the test flight that has taken place it is performing better than a new aircraft would," Joyce said.   Continued...