August 2012

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Temporary QANTAS A380 grounding prompts fuel system questions

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qfa380-14.jpgYesterday's temporary grounding of the QANTAS A380 fleet due to contaminated fuel probes has raised questions about a design flaw in the superjumbo's fuel system, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

[Lyell Strambi, the airline's executive general manager of operations] denied the fuel-tank problem raised questions about the airline's decision to purchase 20 A380s from manufacturer Airbus for $350 million each, describing the issues as "a few teething problems".

But he refused to rule out the possibility of a problem with the aircraft's design.

"Is this a problem with design? It's too early to tell. We'll have to work out what's caused the contamination in the tank.

Since its entry into service in October 2007, the A380 has seen several groundings due to unrelated faults within the fuel system:
February 18, 2008 - SIA - Problem source traced to electrical relay powering fuel pump.
March 24, 2008 - SIA - Problem traced to "premature failure" of the fuel pump.
March 1, 2009 - QFA - One aircraft prompts cancellation due to fuel leak.
March 2, 2009 - QFA - Two aircraft grounded due to fuel probe contamination.
The new jet has been subject to a higher level of visibility because of the unprecedented size of the airliner, yet all new jets have their teething problems.

During the February 2008 cancellation Airbus said the A380 had been operating with a dispatch reliability of more than 99.5 percent. Adding, "Like with a normal car, things can happen, things need to be repaired."

Though, when discussing the dispatch reliability of an aircraft type with a fleet of only 13 aircraft operating worldwide, aircraft related cancellations or groundings can greatly skew the average drastically.

Overall, Mr. Strambi said of his airline's three superjumbos: "The A380 is actually a fantastic aircraft and, until now, we've had a very good entry to service with the aircraft."

Image courtesy of David Barrie

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