The Qantas A380 engine failure - a disaster for Rolls Royce?

A first serious incident happened with an A380 – the first Qantas A380, registered VH-OQA, made an emergency landing in Singapore, not long after taking off from the same airport.
Pictures show that the aft part of the No.2 Trent 900 nacelle is missing. Eye witnesses from the ground said that there was a loud bang (or explosion) and trails of smoke after that.

All this points to an uncontained failure. In recent months we saw two other uncontained failures in RR engines – first a RB211, also with Qantas, but on a B747-400 and then the Trent1000 on a testbed in Derby.

If at least the Trent1000 failure and the -so far- suspected failure in the Trent 900 of the A380 are in any conjunction remains to be seen. At least it is not good publicity for Rolls Royce in a time that is not easy for the No.2 engine maker:

  • Deliveries of the Trent 900 are, due to the production problems and slow ramp-up of the A380, not in numbers that were anticipated in the business case. Any profit from this engine program is delayed by years (the same is also true for the GP7000, of course).
  • Even heavier probably , the Trent 1000 drags on profit margins. The 787 is late by almost three years – if the first delivery in mid-February will be met. According to the original ramp-up plan, there should have been around 200 B787 in service by now, maybe half of if powered by the Trent 1000. The performance inprovement programs, aimed to meat the promised fuel burn at the aircraft probably doubled development costs.
  • Development of the Trent XWB is in full swing, costing a lot of money, too.
So one could suspect that RR is running into a cash problem. Luckily there are the Trent 700, the leading engine for the A330, and the V2500 and Airbus upping deliveries for the A320. But if these two "cash cow" programmes can save RR in the long run, if there would be a main technical problem in the Trent 900/1000 (and maybe XWB), is questionable. A fundamental technical problem, a desígn fault, could end up in the grounding of the whole Trent powered A380 fleet. Qantas grounded their fleet of six A380 immediately after the incident, Singapore would be hit heavy with eleven A380 in their fleet today, Lufthansa so far took delivery of four aircraft.

It is too early to call today’s failure a disaster for Rolls Royce (and subsequently, for Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and, if the worst comes to the worst, Boeing and all their B787 Trent 100 customers) – but the possibility is there…

Update: meanwhile is is obvious that an uncontaines failure happened. Pictures are showing damage to the wing - Singapore Airlines effectively grounded their fleet also. Officially, all flights are just "delayed" until the engines are inspected, but a 100% inspection of the disks for such a failure would mean to take the engine apart...

Update 2:
Just found the preliminary report of the uncontained failure in the RB211-524, which happened on August 30th. It can be found here.
The key observations are (quoted from the report):

All of the turbine blades had separated from the IP turbine disk.
Blades from the three LP turbine stages were either fractured through the airfoil section or separated from the disk.
The LP stage 1 nozzle guide vanes were destroyed. The remaining LP nozzle stages were substantially damaged.
The LP turbine bearing and adjacent phonic wheel and speed probes were destroyed.
• The IP shaft was severed towards the aft end.

This picture is obviously a part of a turbine disk that fell on the island of Batam - we will soon hear if it is also the IPT disk - at least all baldes are missing.

The Trent 1000 failure also happened in the IP Turbine. If now yesterday's failure also can be tracde back to the IPT, I would be happy not to be employed in Derby...