HK-bound SIA jet turns back

By David Lim

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) A380 jet bound for Hong Kong turned back after technical issues cropped up in one of its four engines 20 minutes into the flight yesterday.

The engine encountered "surge and high vibration" as the aircraft was ascending after take-off, an SIA spokesman told my paper. The engine was then automatically shut down.

The flight, SQ856, departed from Changi Airport at about 10.20am, but turned back soon after take-off and touched down safely about an hour later.

The superjumbo was carrying 368 passengers and 21 cabin crew members.

No one was injured.

The A380 is powered by four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines and can still operate safely with three engines, said the spokesman.

But the pilots of SQ856 decided to take the plane back to Singapore as a precaution, even though its three other engines were working, she said.

The spokesman added that inspections are being carried out on the affected aircraft with engine-maker Rolls-Royce.

Changi Airport Group said that its Airport Emergency Service was on standby to assist when the incident occurred, but was eventually not required.

Passengers of the plane were placed on another A380 flight that departed at about 2pm yesterday.

The spokesman added that "all operational procedures during our flights adhere to the strictest safety measures". For example, regular maintenance and pre-flight inspections are carried out before each flight.

The A380, which made its first commercial flight in 2007, has been involved in several incidents in recent months.

Last month, an SIA A380 turned back shortly after taking off in Hong Kong, due to a landing-gear issue, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

In January, an SIA A380 was grounded for days in Zurich after crew members found a fault in the rudder control system.

Last November, a mid-air engine blowout on a Qantas A380 plane forced it to make an emergency landing here.

Rolls-Royce later advised airlines to replace a component in the plane's Trent 900 engines.

Yesterday, the SIA spokesman said that the affected engine component has been replaced in all its A380 planes.

In 2009, SIA also aborted a Singapore-bound A380 flight from Paris over 21/2 hours after take-off, due to an engine fault.

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