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Video: Qantas close-call puts Airbus 380 on probation

  1. Transcript of: Qantas close-call puts Airbus 380 on probation

    WILLIAMS: Good evening.

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: It's been the most talked about passenger jet of recent years because it's just so big, so enormous, and carries so many people. The Airbus A380 is a superjumbo, so large a lot of airports can't handle it. It's got two floors of passenger space, carries hundreds of passengers. It's a long-haul jet powered by four massive engines. And last night, the first major incident in the life of the 380. One of those engines exploded in what could have been a catastrophic flight. We begin here tonight with NBC 's Tom Costello .

    TOM COSTELLO reporting: Home video of the world's biggest commercial plane trailing heavy smoke and making an emergency landing in Singapore . And thicker smoke once it comes to complete stop. Qantas Flight 32 had taken off from Singapore on its way to Sidney , Australia , when just six minutes into flight, the number two engine on the left side of the aircraft exploded. A short time later, the pilot told passengers the other three engines were fine.

    Unidentified Pilot: We have dealt with the situation. The aircraft is secure at this stage. We're going to have to hold for some time whilst we do lighten our load by dumping some fuel and a number of checklists we have to perform.

    COSTELLO: On the ground below, pieces of the engine rained down on the Indonesian island of Batam , hitting a shopping center, cars, even a school, though no one was injured. Once back at the airport in Singapore , passengers said the explosion sounded like a loud thud.

    Ms. MEG GRAHAM (Qantas Flight 32 Passenger): First five minutes, there was a bang, and then another bang and then that was it.

    Unidentified Woman: What kind of bang?

    Ms. GRAHAM: Well, you know, a bang. A bang.

    Woman: Like bang. Yeah.

    Ms. GRAHAM: Boom.

    Mr. NEIL SHEPHARD (Qantas Flight 32 Passenger): The pilot did his job. He did a great job in terms of keeping everybody calm.

    COSTELLO: The Airbus A380 is only three years old, able to seat as many as 850 passengers. Thirty-seven are in service worldwide, flown by five international carriers. Qantas owns six A380s , the pride of the fleet. A short time before one landed in Los Angeles today, Qantas announced it was temporarily grounding its A380s .

    Mr. ALAN JOYCE (Qantas CEO): We would suspend those A380 services until we are completely confident that Qantas safe requirements have been met.

    COSTELLO: Veteran investigators say the massive explosion could have proved fatal had the debris penetrated the wing or cut into the cabin.

    Mr. GREG FEITH (Former National Transportation Safety Board Investigator): Because there is a fuel tank, there are multiple fuel lines in that area as well as hydraulic lines.

    COSTELLO: Uncontained engine failures are extremely rare. The Europeans issued an air-worthiness directive earlier this year on that Rolls-Royce engine, warning that unusual wear could cause the engine to shut down in flight. Tonight, Rolls-Royce says it is investigating and it recommends airlines do precautionary checks on those A380s that use that engine. Brian :

    WILLIAMS: Tom Costello starting us off in Washington tonight. Tom , thanks.

Interactive: Emergency landing

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