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On 4 November 2010, in the skies above the Indonesian island of Batam, one of the four engines powering an Airbus A380 operated by Australian flag carrier Qantas blew up mid-flight. The force of the explosion was so great that shrapnel from the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine punctured the wing, sent fuel gushing from two tanks, and disabled an array of vital flight control systems.
Despite malfunctioning hydraulics, limited reverse thrust and no anti-skid brakes, Captain Richard de Crespigny successfully landed Qantas Flight 32 at Singapore Changi Airport. None of the 440 passengers and 29 crew aboard was injured.
In the months that followed, air safety investigators branched out from focusing solely on the faulty engine to addressing a new issue of concern – the discovery of hairline cracks in the Qantas A380’s wings. Though not a contributing factor to the mid-air explosion, it quickly became apparent that these newly identified fissures – located on nine-inch aluminium brackets connecting the wing’s outer skin to its inner rib structures – warranted further scrutiny...