SYDNEY — Australian officials probing a Qantas A380 engine blast last month reported a "critical safety issue" with the Rolls-Royce unit on Thursday that they said could lead to "catastrophic engine failure".
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said a misaligned component had thinned the wall of an oil pipe in the exploded engine, causing "fatigue cracking" that prompted leakage and a fire "central to the engine failure".
"This condition could lead to an elevated risk of fatigue crack initiation and growth, oil leakage and potential catastrophic engine failure from a resulting oil fire," the ATSB said, noting it was "understood to be related to the manufacturing process."
The Bureau issued a directive urging Rolls-Royce to "address the safety issue and take actions necessary to ensure the safety of flight operations in transport aircraft equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent 900 series engines."
Qantas said it would immediately conduct further engine investigations as a result of the findings, but stressed it was just a precautionary measure and "there is no immediate risk to flight safety."
"Qantas currently has two A380 aircraft in operational service, following the grounding of the fleet on 4 November. Both A380 aircraft will be inspected at the Qantas Jet Base in Sydney," the airline said.
"Inspections will commence this afternoon."
The flagship carrier said it would determine whether further action would need to be taken after inspections were complete and it had consulted both Rolls-Royce and regulators.
"Qantas does not anticipate at this stage that the inspections will have an impact on international services. However contingency arrangements will be in place, if needed," it said.
The findings come just five days after Qantas resumed A380 flights, though the carrier has barred the superjumbo from trans-Pacific trips to Los Angeles due to the extra engine thrust required.
It had grounded all six of its Airbus superjumbos after the November 4 blast over the Indonesian island of Batam, which forced an A380 to return to Singapore airport trailing smoke.
Checks revealed problems with 16 of the total 24 Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines powering Qantas's A380s -- four per plane -- meaning the turbines would have to be replaced or modified.
Qantas chief Alan Joyce on Saturday said he was "100 percent comfortable" with the A380s' operation.
Australia's national carrier, it has has never suffered a fatal crash in the jet age.
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