You’d think that the Qantas A380 saga would be winding down by now, but you’d be wrong. Qantas is still struggling with the fact that it can’t operate the A380 to the U.S. because the engines simply can’t handle it. This means that things continue to get worse for engine-maker Rolls-Royce, and I imagine legal bills have only started to pile on. Rolls needs to get this thing under control, because right now Qantas is in a bad place.While Singapore and Lufthansa both use the Rolls-Royce Trent 970, Qantas had to use the 972 to get 2,000 pounds more thrust for its operation. There actually isn’t much of a difference in the engines at all, but one is rated to give a little more power. For Qantas, that little bit extra is really important.
Qantas has re-started flights from Sydney to places like Singapore on the A380, because it doesn’t need full thrust to operate that route. However, the prize has always been flights to Los Angeles, and that’s a different story.
At nearly 7,500 miles, Qantas needs every bit of thrust to get off the ground at LAX with a full passenger load and a lot of fuel. And that full thrust requirement is apparently why Qantas is having bigger engine problems with this air plane than anyone else. Any time you use full thrust, you put more stress on the engine. Engines are supposed to handle that just fine, but not in this case.
Qantas has now found that it can operate no more than 75 flights at top thrust before it needs to replace an engine. That’s ridiculous, considering each engine can cost $10 million or more. And it leaves Qantas with a huge problem.
Rolls-Royce had suggested last month that Qantas operate the engines with less thrust. That suggestion is completely worthless since it would mean Qantas could carry a mere 80 passengers on the LA to Sydney route. The airline might as well just operate a 747 at full capacity for a lot less cost with a lot more passengers. If it can’t carry a full load on the A380, that air plane is worthless.
The funny thing is that Qantas didn’t even want the more powerful engines in the first place. It opted for the same ones as Lufthansa and Singapore originally, but then Airbus announced the A380 would weigh 5 tons more than planned. That pushed Qantas to order the higher-thrust engines in order to make the air plane viable on the LA route.
So now Qantas is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It has A380s on the property but it can’t fly them where it wants without needing a multi million dollar engine change every few months. Rolls-Royce is going to have to fix this problem or Qantas is going to have to find an alternative.
(Picture) Nancy Bird Walton – the first aviatrix in Australia. Qantas named their first A380 in her honour
The silver lining for Qantas is that it’s not going to be responsible for any of the cost here. Rolls-Royce and Airbus (to a lesser extent, if any), however, are going to have to open up those wallets. For Qantas, however, it would much rather just have an air plane that functions properly. Instead, Qantas now has to go through its peak travel season without the ability to use the A380 to the U.S.