An Airbus A330-243 was operating a scheduled passenger flight between Sydney (Australia) and Shanghai (China) with 238 passengers and an un-reported crew complement.
The failed inlet (Source and © ATSB)
With all preparations completed the engines were started and the aircraft taxied out to runway 34L at Sydney Airport.
After receiving the take-off clearance the throttles were forwarded and the aircraft accelerated down the runway. The aircraft lifted off and the initial climb was uneventful.
8 minutes after take-off the crew contacted ATC reporting an issue with the #1 (left-hand) engine and that the engine had been throttled back to idle. A short while later a "PAN PAN" call was made and the aircraft was vectored around the Sydney area, reducing the fuel load and giving the crew the time to troubleshoot the issue. With all checklists completed the aircraft was vectored to runway 34L for an overweight landing. 42 minutes after take-off the aircraft landed back at Sydney Airport. The aircraft taxied back to the terminal where the passengers disembarked, there were no injuries. Maintenance engineers were on-site to immediately inspect the aircraft. There was substantial damage to the lefthand engine and the airframe;
Engine inlet cowling - #1 and #3 acoustic panels separated - Cowling skin separated
Damaged by-pass duct panels
Left-wing trailing edge flaps
Landing gear door
Left-hand horizontal stabiliser
Debris from the inlet cowling that had separated was found on the runway and along the flight path of the aircraft, including fragments at a school and on public roads.
Involved components (Source and © Rolls Royce and ATSB)
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) was informed about the accident and they launched an investigation. This incident was the 4th incident of a Rolls Royce Trent 700 powered A330 where the acoustic panels had failed;
October 2006 #1 Acoustic panel failure (inlet was at 20.300 flight hours and 5186 flight cycles
August 2009 #3 Acoustic panel failure (inlet was at 32.950 flight hours and 16849 flight cycles
May 2017 #3 Acoustic panel failure (inlet was at 38553 flight hours and 12.410 flight cycles
June 2017 #1 & #3 Acoustic panel failure (inlet was at 41.023 flight hours and 8051 flight cycles.
The first two incidents were investigated and it was concluded that the most likely result was the local disbanding of the acoustic skin of the Acoustic panel. Potential factors that could adversely affect the structural integrity of the panels were identified during the fabrication process of the panels. As a result of the incidents, Bombardier (manufacturer of the inlets) and Airbus issued Service Bulletins for additional inspections of the inlets of Rolls Royce Trent-powered Airbus A330s.
The ATSB report on the incident was published in 2019, it was concluded in the report that the ATSB and the manufacturer were unable to conclusively identify the reason for the panel failure. The ATSB report is available by clicking here.
The damaged intake (Source and © ATSB)