Singapore Airlines A380 returns to Paris after engine failure


A Singapore Airlines Ltd. Airbus A380 bound for Asia returned to Paris after one of its four engines failed, the first time a mechanical malfunction forced an in-flight turnaround of the world’s biggest passenger jet.

Flight SQ333, with a crew of 27 and 444 passengers on board, left for Singapore at 12:35 p.m. yesterday. Two and a half hours into the flight, an engine message to the cockpit prompted a shutdown by the pilot, Singapore Airlines said today. The airline didn’t reveal the cause of the malfunction.

“While the aircraft is able to operate with three engines, the pilots decided to return to Paris as a precaution due to the long flight,” the airline said.

The A380 double-decker jet operated by Singapore is one of 19 in service. The craft is still in Paris, and affected passengers have been put up in hotels until alternate flights out of the French capital are found. The jet is being fitted with a new engine on the ground, the airline said.

The A380 is certified as safe to fly with only three of its four engines, which led the pilot to return to Paris, where trained mechanics and other ground personnel could address the issue, said Eric Heraud, a spokesman for France’s DGAC civil aviation authority. The Charles de Gaulle airport is equipped to accommodate the double-decker, wide-body A380.

Certified for Landing

Paris is one of 60 airports worldwide that will eventually be certified for the plane, which has a maximum takeoff weight of 1.2 million pounds (544 tons) and a wing area of 845 square meters (9,100 square feet). The plane can fit as many as 853 people in an all-economy class configuration.

France’s aviation authority estimates about one in 10,000 flights operated by the national carrier, Air France SA, suffers a problem with an engine that requires it to land before reaching the planned destination.

A380 planes can be fitted with either Rolls-Royce Group Plc Trent 900 engines or the GP7200 built by a joint venture between General Electric Co. and Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp. Some 16 airlines have ordered A380s, and of the 14 airlines that have already made a choice on engine type, nine have chosen Rolls-Royce.

Choice of Engines

Rolls-Royce is working closely with the airline to investigate the reasons of the malfunction, a spokeswoman said. The company said the engine has proven highly reliable, with a dispatch rate, or number of times the aircraft has left at departure time, of 99.8 percent.

Singapore began serving the Paris route in June, offering daily connections. The company first began flying A380s in October 2007 as the first customer for the model.

Emirates Airline, the largest carrier in the Middle East, is the biggest customer for the plane after ordering 58. The airline now operates five A380s. Qantas Airways Ltd. has four in service, with another two scheduled for delivery this year and three in 2010.

Air France KLM Group’s Air France is scheduled to take delivery of its first A380 by the end of October, and will fly the plane between Paris and New York’s JFK airport. Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s first delivery was pushed back from 2009 to 2010.

Airbus delivered one A380 in 2007, 12 in 2008, and has committed to delivering 14 this year, after deferrals by several airlines forced it to drop down from 18 units. The company has a total order volume of 200 for the A380.