Friday, September 30, 2011

Airbus A380 Engine Pylons May Need Air Holes to Avoid Fire Risk

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Airlines operating Airbus SAS’s A380 superjumbo may be required to modify equipment that connects the plane’s engines to its wings, safety regulators said, citing a risk of overheating that could cause a fire.

Test flights revealed a buildup of heat in the pylons of A380s equipped with Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc Trent 900 engines, the European Aviation Safety Agency said today in a proposed airworthiness directive which would require carriers to install ventilation holes in some of the panels covering the structures.

“This condition could, in case of a heavy fuel leak, lead to an ignition of fuel vapors, possibly resulting in a fuel fire and consequent damage to the aeroplane and/or injury to its occupants,” EASA said in the directive, which is open for consultation until Oct. 28. If made mandatory, the modifications would have to be implemented within a 10-month period, it said.

Australian carrier Qantas Airways Ltd. grounded its A380s for 23 days last year after a Trent 900 failure prompted an emergency landing in Singapore on Nov. 4. Rolls-Royce has since carried out modifications to address issues with a faulty oil pipe, and the glitch disclosed today is unrelated, Airbus said.

The planned directive would affect the Trent-equipped -841 and -842 variants of the A380, all manufacturer serial numbers, except for planes that have already been modified, EASA said.

Today’s proposal follows a bulletin issued by Airbus to A380 operators on July 25 after the manufacturer uncovered the overheating issue during its own test flights, spokesman Stefan Schaffrath said by phone, adding that the EASA directive is a standard response. Schaffrath said that the period permitted to address the problem indicates the low perceived risk.

EASA said no-one was immediately available to comment further, and London-based Rolls-Royce declined to comment.

A380s equipped with Engine Alliance turbines made by General Electric Co. and Pratt and Whitney aren’t affected.

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