msnbc.com news services
updated 11/4/2011 6:45:06 AM ET 2011-11-04T10:45:06

An engine fault forced a Qantas Airways A380 plane bound for London to divert to Dubai on Friday, exactly a year since a mid-air engine blowout prompted the Australian airline to ground its entire fleet of A380 superjumbos for nearly a month.

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The Airbus aircraft had an "oil quantity defect" in one engine which was switched off according to standard procedure, a Qantas spokeswoman in Sydney said, adding Qantas engineers would investigate the problem.

Flight QF31, heading from Singapore to London, landed safely, and none of the 258 passengers or 25 crew was hurt.

Passengers included English actor, comedian and writer Stephen Fry, who took to Twitter to chronicle the situation as it unfolded.

The airline said in a letter distributed to passengers and posted on Twitter by Fry that engineers would take a number of hours to conduct "mandatory inspections".

Engineers were inspecting the plane in Dubai, and it was not expected to be back in the air on Friday, Qantas said. The airline was booking passengers onto alternate flights to London.

"Qantas... have said they shut down the engine to check oil and that there was no explosion," a source familiar with events said.

Referring to the latest incident and the engine explosion a year ago Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said: "The two issues are completely unrelated. This is a one-off and we will look to get the aircraft back in the skies as soon as possible."

'Not a great week for Qantas'
Each Qantas A380 is powered by four Rolls Royce engines. The carrier has 10 A380s in service and is due to take delivery of two more by the year-end. It also has two more on order and deferred the delivery schedule for six others.

"Still stuck on Dubai tarmac. No one seems to know how long we'll be here. Should've landed in London at 6:20. That won't happen!" Fry told his 3.3 million followers on Twitter.

"Not a great week for Qantas," he added.

The latest incident follows a series of setbacks for the airline. Last weekend, the airline grounded its entire fleet and threatened to lock out unions that had been staging months of strikes. The move stranded almost 70,000 passengers around the world and enraged government officials, who ordered an emergency court hearing.

On Monday, the court ordered the airline to end the lockout and ordered the unions to halt their strikes. Flights were back to normal by Tuesday.

On Wednesday, officials said police were investigating the suspected sabotage of the entertainment system on a Qantas plane. Qantas said engineers noticed several wires were cut on the plane's in-flight entertainment system on Oct. 26, the height of the labor dispute.

The engineers' union said it was unlikely the plane was sabotaged because of the union's dispute with the airline.

Airbus, Rolls Royce respond
In regards to Friday's incident, Airbus spokesman Sean Lee said in an email to Reuters: "We are aware that an A380 operated by Qantas diverted to Dubai as a precautionary measure. We are working with the airline to look into this matter."

Airbus has sold 236 A380s. By the end of September this year it had delivered 57. The four-engined double-decker airplanes sell for $375 million each at list prices.

A Rolls Royce spokesman said the company was aware of the incident and was working closely with Qantas to provide appropriate support and technical assistance.

A Qantas Airbus A380 aircraft suffered an engine explosion on November 4 last year, after it had taken off from Singapore for Sydney. It returned to Singapore and landed safely.

Qantas, which has one of the best safety records in the industry, blamed an oil fire for the blowout.

In last year's engine blowout, a turbine disc disintegrated and sent shards of metal through the aircraft's wing, severing systems and narrowly missing the cabin.

Investigations have pinpointed a suspected manufacturing fault in an oil pipe which could lead to oil leaks and ordered regular safety checks.

Rolls-Royce, which competes with a General Electric and Pratt & Whitney joint venture to power the A380, says it has solved the problem and replaced or upgraded engines.

Rolls Royce engines power the A380 fleet of Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and Lufthansa and China Southern.

Qantas resumed A380 services on November 27 after engine inspections concluded the airplane was safe to fly.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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