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Qantas Grounds Airbus A380 Fleet After Engine Failure

Firefighters surround a Qantas passenger plane which made an emergency landing in Singapore's Changi International Airport after having engine problems, 04 Nov 2010

Qantas Airways says it will suspend all Airbus A380 flights until they determine the cause of an engine failure that occurred earlier in the day.

A Qantas spokeswoman says Flight QF32 was en route from Singapore to Sydney when one of the A380 jet's four engines shut down.

Aviation industry consultant Gerry Soejatman says the airline industry term for what occurred is an uncontained engine failure.

"That means the engine failed in a manner in which it could not be contained in the engine itself. So there would be parts flying around," he said.

Witnesses on the Indonesian island of Batam near Singapore reported hearing an explosion as the plane passed over, and found debris that appeared to be from an aircraft.

Tatang Kurnia, head of Indonesia's Transportation Safety Board, says there are pieces of debris in Batam with red coloring on it and Singapore confirmed that an airplane in the area dumped fuel to make an emergency landing.

The plane returned to Singapore as a precaution. There were initial fears the Airbus 380 had crashed.

No injuries among 459 people on board have been reported, but in Batam two people were reportedly hit by falling debris.

The cause of the engine failure has not been reported. Australian aviation safety officials are on their way to Singapore to check the aircraft and the flight recorder. Soejatman says it is not surprising that the incident occurred during take-off.

"During the take-off phase of the flight, it is the time when the engines are put at most strain, after it shut down from the previous flight," he said. "So that is mechanically the riskiest part of the flight."

There are 37 Airbus A380 aircraft in use around the world. Qantas has six in operation and 20 more on order. The planes are the largest passenger aircraft and some can carry up to 800 people.

News of this incident comes at a time when airlines around the world are on high alert after discovery of bombs packed in air cargo in Europe.