An Airbus A380 operated by Qantas made an emergency landing following an engine explosion this morning—and this is really scary stuff, writes aviation expert Clive Irving for the Daily Beast. Passengers reported hearing a bang and seeing smoke pour out of one of its Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines. The reality is that the plane came "perilously close" to disaster. A key rule of jet engine design states that all internal failures should be contained within its casing—but images show shrapnel damage on the skin of the wings ... which is where the main gas tanks are located.
That would have been a staggering tragedy, considering these planes can carry up to 550 passengers (the one in question had 459 on board). It leads Irving to ask whether competition is partly to blame. Rolls is one of just four big contenders in the world when it comes to jet-engine manufacturing. Other major A380 operators, like Air France, Lufthansa, and Emirates, use an engine made by the European-based Engine Alliance. "Rolls has now to answer a tough question," writes Irving. "Has competition forced them to press engines into service before they met the standards of engineering integrity that go with such an illustrious name?" (Read more Airbus A380 stories.)