Qantas aims to fly A380s to LAX by mid-January

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Qantas airline hopes to resume its A380 flights to Los Angeles by mid-January, more than two months after an engine blowout forced the carrier to temporarily ground its superjumbo fleet.

A Qantas spokesman said Wednesday that an exact date has not been set but a schedule prepared for planning purposes has the Los Angeles flights resuming within weeks.

“We are hopeful of recommencing the Los Angeles flight by the 17th of January but have not confirmed a date at this time,” the spokesman said on condition of anonymity in accordance with company procedure.

Qantas grounded all six of its A380s for 19 days after a Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine disintegrated shortly after a flight took off from Singapore on Nov. 4, and other airlines that use that type of engine also suspended some services while checks were carried out.

Preliminary reports said an oil leak caused a fire in the giant high-tech engine.

In November, Qantas Airways resumed A380 flights on the other route that it uses the superjumbo, from Australia to London via Singapore. But CEO Alan Joyce said the Australia-U.S. flights would remain suspended while more tests were carried out.

The direct flights from Australia’s two largest cities of Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles are among the longest nonstop commercial flights in the world, and the A380s must carry more fuel than on other flights to make them.

That means the planes are heavier when they take off, and need more thrust from the A380’s four engines. Qantas says it will not fly the Australia-U.S. routes until it is satisfied the extra thrust does not put unsafe stresses on the engines.

The decision on returning Qantas’ A380s to the U.S. routes — among the most lucrative for Qantas — comes as officials show signs of confidence that the problem that caused the blowout has been fixed.

In late December, the European air safety regulator increased the number of flights that can be made by a Trent 900 engine before it must be inspected for signs of the type of problem that occurred on the Qantas plane.

Qantas has launched legal action in Australia to sue Rolls-Royce over losses from the incident.

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