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Qantas pilot to passengers: 'We have a technical issue'

By the CNN Staff
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Qantas pilot message to passengers
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In video pilot says plane is "secure," and that it's dumping fuel
  • Pilot announces to 440 passengers there is a "technical issue" with engine
  • Sound on tape indicates pilot's explanation didn't cause alarm
  • Qantas grounded its planes for as long as it takes to perform investigation, official says

(CNN) -- After part of an engine fell off a Qantas plane in mid-flight Thursday, a passenger shooting a personal video recorded the pilot announcing, calmly, that the flight was experiencing a "technical issue."

"I do apologize," the pilot begins. "I'm sure you are aware we have a technical issue with our No. 2 engine. We have dealt with the situation. The aircraft is secure at this stage. We're going to have to hold for sometime whilst we do lighten our load by dumping some fuel."

The pilot then tells passengers on the Airbus A380 that there is a "checklist we have to perform."

"I'm sure you are aware we are not proceeding to Sydney at this stage," the pilot says. "We're making a left turn now to track back towards Singapore and as we progress with this we'll keep you [informed] but at this stage everything is secure. [The] aircraft is flying safely and we'll get back to you very shortly with further information. Thank you for your patience."

The video is shot facing out the passenger's window and focuses squarely, without panning, at the wing of the plane. Damage to the wing is visible in a video shot by a passenger.

Volume is low, but it sounds as if conversation on the plane continued as normal, suggesting no one realized the gravity of what had happened.

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The cowling, or covering, on the engine reportedly fell off about 15 minutes into the flight.

There were 440 passengers and 26 crew members aboard the flight which left Singapore bound for Sydney, Australia. The plane returned to Singapore. Everyone was safe.

Passengers later described hearing alarming sounds while in the air. Meg Graham said she heard a loud bang within minutes of the plane departing.

"And then another bang," she said.

Ulf Waschbusch said the crew kept passengers apprised of what was happening.

"We all stayed pretty calm," he said. "It was an almost eerie calm."

CNN iReport: 'We saw the debris'

Qantas, Australia's national airline, has grounded its Airbus A380 fleet. Flights of the twin-deck planes -- the world's largest airliners -- will remain suspended until an investigation into Thursday's incident is complete, said airline CEO Alan Joyce.

"As long as it takes," Joyce said, responding to a reporter's question about how the suspension would last. "We are being very cautious until we know exactly what caused this."

Qantas now has six A380s in its fleet of 191 planes. Airbus will at some point deliver another 14, the airline said.

One of the four engines on a Qantas airliner shut down six minutes after takeoff Thursday from Singapore's Changi Airport, Joyce said.

Part of the engine's covering -- know as cowling -- tore off while the plane was above the western Indonesian island of Batam.

"I am not sure what actually happened with the debris and why parts of the engine left the aircraft and fell into the ground," Joyce said. "We're still looking at what exactly was the cause of that."

Local television stations in Indonesia showed debris with red-white markings. A security officer at a Batam engineering firm said he heard a loud explosion and saw smoke coming out of the engine of a flying plane.

The man's name is Trifuadi. (Many Indonesians go by only one name.) He said that debris fell from the plane.

Airline investigators plan to work with the plane's manufacturer as well as Rolls-Royce, the maker of the engine.

"Safety is always our highest priority," a spokesman for Rolls-Royce told CNN. "We are currently analyzing the available information and working with our customers to support their operations."

Singapore Airlines announced Thursday that it has temporarily halted flights of its 11 Airbus A380s to do precautionary checks in light of the Qantas incident.

Lufthansa, which operates three Airbus A380s, said its operations currently are "normal."

"We are on standby to go further but no decisions have been taken. We are checking with Rolls-Royce and Airbus to see if they think there is a broader view, do they think we need to make special checks," a Lufthansa spokesman said.

"We do a lot of engine monitoring. We have a lot of information to see if there is anything abnormal and we do not have anything at the moment."

CNN's Christabelle Fombu, Nicky Robertson, Judy Kwon, Kevin Voigt, Liz Neisloss, Mia Anngre, Zain Verjee and Ashley Fantz contributed to this report

 
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