Rolls-Royce hit as fears mount

ROLLS-ROYCE, one of Britain’s last remaining manufacturing giants, suffered a fresh blow yesterday. Australian flag carrier Qantas claimed it had found issues with three more engines on its grounded Airbus A380 “superjumbo” fleet following last week’s engine failure.

Qantas has removed two engines from an A380 in Sydney and one from a jet in Los Angeles following checks on the aircraft in the wake of Thursday’s incident on a Qantas jet flying to Australia..

Qantas grounded its A380 fleet and Rolls-Royce advised airlines to make the checks after one of the Trent 900 engines on Qantas flight QF32 from Singapore to Sydney failed and the aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore.

Qantas said it needed to remove the engines from the wings of the aircraft in Sydney and LA for closer inspection, although it declined to give details.

The news could scupper hopes voiced by Qantas boss Alan Joyce on Saturday of being able to get the fleet airborne again “within days”.

There appeared to have been a breakthrough in the investigation yesterday after Australian investigators said they had found part of the engine on Batam Island in Indonesia that could be crucial in understanding what caused the engine to fail.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said it was forwarding an engine part, said to be half of a geared disc, to Rolls-Royce in the UK for inspection under the supervision of ATSB investigators.

It urged residents of Batam Island to give any other engine parts they found, particularly more fragments of the disc, to local police.

“The recovery of that disk could be crucial to a full understanding of the nature of the engine failure, and may have implications for the prevention of future similar occurrences,” the ATSB said.

Rolls-Royce, which makes the Trent 900 engine at its civil aerospace plants in Derby, yesterday refused to comment on the latest reports.

The company, whose share price has fallen nearly a tenth in two days, issued a statement last week saying it was working closely with Airbus, airlines and the authorities in the investigation, which it said was at an early stage.

A spokesman also refused to comment after it emerged that Rolls’ US rival Pratt & Whitney was suing the British firm over claims that the turbine fan blade used in the Trent 900 was based on a P&W design. Rolls-Royce is headed by Sir John Rose.

Rolls has also sued P&W over the issue, claiming it had the valid patent for the fan blade design.