A380 Parts Search in Indonesia Narrows

Specialists investigating the mid-air explosion of a superjumbo engine last week have narrowed their search in Indonesia for missing parts that could be clues.

The Australian Transport and Safety Bureau said Friday it was sending officials to join Indonesian authorities looking for engine parts and debris that littered Batam island when the Qantas A380's Rolls-Royce engine disintegrated on takeoff from Singapore on Nov. 4.

The bureau said in an update that investigators have probed the stricken engine with borescopes — flexible tube-like microscopes with a light attached that are used for poking into hard-to-reach places — and pulled some components off to be inspected.

A key clue, a chunk of a turbine disc, is being examined at a Rolls-Royce facility in England.

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Investigators have finished interviewing the flight crew about the blowout's effect on the aircraft systems and what the crew did to deal with it, and were starting to interview the cabin crew about safety procedures for passengers, the bureau said.

"It is anticipated that the examination of the management of the emergency will identify valuable insights into the handling of future emergencies in the A380," the bureau said in a statement.

Qantas has grounded its fleet of six Airbus A380s because of the incident, the most serious safety event for the top-line passenger jet since it debuted three years ago. Singapore Airlines and Germany's Lufthansa also fly A380s with the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine that Qantas uses, for a total of 20 worldwide. Singapore Airlines has grounded three of its planes for checks, while the rest remain in service.

Qantas spokesman Nick Rushton said Friday checks were still being carried out on the airline's A380s and the planes would not be returned to service until engineers were satisifed they were safe to fly.