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Warning over 'superjumbo' engines

Up to half of the Rolls-Royce engines of the type which disintegrated on an Airbus superjumbo this month may need to be replaced by the three carriers in Australia, Singapore and Germany, Qantas's chief executive have said.

Australia's Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Germany's Lufthansa fly A380s powered by four giant Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, with a total of 80 engines on 20 planes.

Qantas chief Alan Joyce said that Rolls-Royce had indicated that up to 40 of them may need to be replaced.

"Rolls-Royce are still working through the criteria for which engines need to be changed," he said on the sidelines of an event in Sydney unrelated to the A380 incident.

He said that 14 of the 24 engines on Qantas planes may have to be replaced.

One of the Trent 900s on a Qantas superjumbo caught fire and blew apart shortly after take-off from Singapore on November 4, in what experts say was the most serious safety incident for the world's newest and largest passenger plane. The Sydney-bound flight returned safely to Singapore, where it made an emergency landing.

All six of Qantas's A380s have been grounded while extensive safety checks and fixes are carried out, and the airline says three Trent 900 engines have been removed, in addition to the one which blew out.

Singapore Airlines, which has 11 A380s, and Lufthansa, with three, briefly grounded some of their planes after the Qantas scare but returned almost all of them to service after conducting safety checks. Singapore Airlines has said it replaced three Trent 900s. Lufthansa replaced one but said the reason was unrelated to the Qantas blow-out.

Mr Joyce reiterated that Qantas would not be putting its A380s back into service until the airline was satisfied they were safe to fly.

"We'll have a daily dialogue with Rolls-Royce to determine which engines actually need to be taken off," he said. "We're hoping to understand precisely which engines need to be replaced and therefore we can have a firm timeline for when they will be back in the air, but we are still a few days away from that."

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