On Sunday morning, May 12th, a Qantas Boeing 747 heading from Tokyo to Sydney suffered an engine failure. Passengers who spoke to the media report hearing an explosion or loud bang. Others report flames and sparks. The flight, QF26, was diverted to Cairns (CNS) where it made a safe and successful landing.
Orange flames and sparks
Some passengers were witness to the engine failure. Speaking to the Cairns Post, Desmon Du Plessis saw “orange flames” and “sparks” from his window seat beside the wing:
“I was sitting at the window and there was an incredibly loud bang, and when I looked out there was an orange flame and then sparks, it was like white…And then everything started shaking, and you could hear the engine die straight away.”
Also speaking with the Cairns Post, passenger David Jonas, said the aircraft made a rapid descent after the engine failure:
“We went from 10,000m to 7000m quite quickly and then we continued for a while…The captain, very sensibly, made the decision to bring the aircraft to the first Australian airport he could find — which was Cairns — but that took about two hours.”
According to Mr. Du Plessis , the captain addressed passengers regarding the incident and informed them of the diversion to Cairns. The flight landed there at 5:10am local time.
Qantas fleet safety captain Debbie Slade spoke to news.com.au and said:
“In line with standard procedures, the pilots shut down the engine and the flight diverted to Cairns. While customers may have heard a loud bang, there was never a safety risk with the flight. These aircraft are designed to safely operate on three of the four engines.”
According to website FlightRadar24, it appears that a follow-up flight was in the works from Cairns to Sydney, however no additional details are available for this. More recent reports state that the damaged jumbo jet will remain in Cairns for the rest of the week.
About the aircraft
The specific 747 in the incident has registration VH-OJU (it appears in the first photo of this article). According to PlaneSpotters.net, VH-OJU was delivered to Qantas in January 2000 and is 19.3 years old. This is the second 747 engine failure to happen within a month. At the end of April, a KLM 747 leaving Seoul for Amsterdam suffered an engine failure. The KLM 747 was three years older than the Qantas plane.
Airfleets.net shows that this aircraft is one of eight Boeing 747 planes in the Qantas fleet. The airline is phasing out its 747s with the final transpacific flight taking place at the end of this year from Sydney to San Francisco.
Qantas fleet renewal
This incident underscores the reason behind Qantas’ current fleet renewal. Many aging 747s have already been replaced by the Airbus A380 while eight 787-9 aircraft serve long-distance routes with lower capacity. The airline has six more Dreamliners on order.
Furthermore, Qantas will be ordering planes for Project Sunrise: Its plan for an ultra-long-distance route from Sydney to London. With an announcement reportedly coming by the end of this year, many believe the competition is between the Airbus A350ULR and the new Boeing 777x.