Singapore Airlines grounds A380 for third time

(dpa) - The failure of a new fuel pump provided by Airbus grounded the world's largest commercial plane for the third time in less than two months, stranding hundreds of Sydney-bound passengers, Singapore Airlines (SIA) said on Wednesday.

The A380 double-decker was scheduled to depart from Changi Airport Monday night for Sydney, but ground crew eventually told customers the plane was unserviceable and transferred them onto two Boeing 747s more than six hours later.

"The cause has been traced to the premature failure of a new fuel pump provided by Airbus," said SIA spokesman Stephen Forshaw. The problem was fixed and the jet returned to service Tuesday night.

The entry-into-service record of the Airbus double-deckers "has been substantially better than any other new aircraft type that we've received," Forshaw said.

"Teething issues with any new aircraft are to be expected, despite best efforts to minimize the impact of those," Forshaw said in a statement. "So while there will be teething issues, we will treat them carefully and cautiously - and won't be rushing to put a plane into the air which isn't 100 per cent good to go."

"Aircraft are incredibly complex pieces of machinery and problems which can't be easily resolved need to be thoroughly investigated, especially with a new plane like the A380," he said. "We are being very thorough."

Customers who paid fares commensurate with traveling on the new A380 cabin products will be refunded any difference between that and the fare they would have paid to fly on a 747 service, he noted.

A Sydney-bound A380 was grounded in February from a problem brought on by a faulty electrical relay that powered the fuel pump, Forshaw said.

The A380 suffered a third grounding when auxiliary brake problems stranded the aircraft in Sydney for nearly one-and-a-half days earlier this month.

SIA, the sole carrier commercially flying the A380, started the Singapore-Sydney route last October and Singapore-London this month. Tokyo is scheduled to be added starting May 20.

Airbus has delivered three A380s to SIA so far. The carrier has locked in orders for another 16, with an option to purchase six more.

Despite the problems, Forshaw said that the A380s reliability has been "generally excellent."

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