The Qantas A380 grounded in Baku has returned to commercial service and is now en route from Sydney to Los Angeles – just days after it made its emergency landing.
Engineers replaced the faulty sensor earlier this week, and the aircraft, VH-OQH, was deemed safe to fly by the airline’s engineers and an Airbus representative.
It returned to Sydney on Boxing Day before departing the NSW capital 12:26pm AEDT on Wednesday, bound for LAX as flight QF11.
The Super Jumbo was travelling from Sydney to London via Singapore on Friday when a sensor light alerted pilots to the possibility of smoke in the cargo hold. It turned around above Tbilisi, Georgia, before making an emergency landing in Azerbaijan.
Heydar Aliyev International Airport, in Baku, has one of the longest runways in the area and is a popular choice for aircraft to make emergency landings. It was met there by emergency services.
Investigations later revealed no evidence of smoke, meaning the incident was likely a result of a fault with the sensor and a false alarm.
“The aircraft operating the recovery flight is one of the operational spares that Qantas has on standby over the holiday season to help recover customers in the event of an unexpected disruption like this,” the business said previously in a statement.
“We know this has been a significant disruption for customers ahead of Christmas.
“However, we will always put safety before schedule. We have apologised and thanked them for their patience while we finalised the recovery plans. They have spent the night at the Marriott Hotel and been provided with meals and transport.”
Qantas grounded its entire fleet of A380s during the pandemic, with most sent to the Victorville desert ‘boneyard’.
The Flying Kangaroo has been slowly returning them to active service, though plans to permanently scrap two.
So far, VH-OQB, VH-OQD, VH-OQH, VH-OQK and VH-OQJ have returned to active operations, but VH-OQC, VH-OQI remain in the desert.
VH-OQL and VH-OQA are currently in Abu Dhabi, where they are receiving a cabin upgrade. VH-OQF has already been dismantled, with speculation that it will be joined on the scrap heap by VH-OQE.
VH-OQA, Qantas’ first A380, was involved in arguably Australian aviation’s most serious-ever safety incident, when its Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine exploded shortly after it took off, causing a major fire in November 2010.
Despite significant structural and systems damage, Captain de Crespigny and his colleagues in the flight deck — Qantas’ first A380 named after Australian aviation legend Nancy-Bird Walton — managed to return to Singapore Changi Airport for a safe landing.
No passengers or crew were injured.
Investigators later found the failure was due to a fatigue crack in an oil feed-pipe in the number two engine of the aircraft. This led to an internal oil leak and fire, with the turbine disc eventually bursting through the engine casing.
VH-OQA, meanwhile, underwent significant repairs after the incident that took 16 months to complete and cost $139 million before it eventually returned to service in April 2012.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce this year used the incident to reject calls for airlines to have just one pilot in the cockpit of its aircraft.
“We had five amazing pilots in the cockpit, and without that, I don’t think that aircraft would have landed safely,” he said in a new interview. “We know that, and we’re very conscious of it.”