After 18 months and A$139 million (S$180 million) worth of repairs which needed 78,000 production man-hours, 50,000 design man-hours and 150 tonnes of spares which were delivered via 1,000 global airfreight deliveries, Qantas A380 "Nancy-Bird Walton" is ready to take to the air again.
The plane, whose No. 2 engine blew out over Batam on Nov 4, 2010, forcing it to return for an emergency landing at Changi Airport, has finally been restored to its original state.
Or almost. It is said to have put on a bit of weight - about 150 kg more (roughly the weight of two passengers), with some replacement parts installed during the almost year-long repair at SIA Engineering's purpose-built A380 Hangar 6.
In all, the entire repair and restoration process needed about 170 Airbus engineers and almost a dozen Qantas technicians, who spent the better part of the last year in Singapore.
Last Friday, senior technical officials from Airbus and Qantas, led by the airline's head of Integrated Operations Centre, Alan Milne, briefed media on the repair, including the timeline between the November 2010 engine blowout and now. Besides a handful of Singapore-based media personnel, Qantas also flew in about a dozen Australian journalists for the presentation at the Mandarin Orchard.
The plane took off from Changi with some 40 passengers - Qantas officials, led by CEO Alan Joyce, and the Australian media - tonight , before returning to service on April 28. Its first route after being re-introduced to service will be from Sydney to Hong Kong.
Beleaguered Qantas A380 jet set to fly home in a couple of weeks
This comes after it passed Airbus' Acceptance Testing Schedule, which included static checks and engine runs between April 5 and 14, followed by its first test flight on April 15, when the plane was taken up to its maximum cruising altitude of 43,000 feet over the South China Sea.
Mr Milne said the entire repair process was a "monumental task" and the biggest restoration job ever done on a commercial plane. "It was a tremendous challenge, but it a testament to the spirit of cooperation which exists in this industry that Singapore Airlines, who is our bitter business rival, readily offered us their facilities for the repair," he said.
The repairs centred on replacement of the skins on the upper and lower sides of the wing adjacent to Engine 2, and the forward wing sections. Some 6 km of wires and cables removed during the repair had to be re-installed.
All four Trent 900 engines were replaced after the fault was pinned down to faulty fuel pipes.
In all, Qantas replaced 17 engines in its A380 fleet. Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa - which also used the same engine types, similarly replaced several engines on their A380 fleets.
Noticeably absent at last Friday's briefing were officials of Rolls-Royce.
The entire repair bill - which includes the lease of SIA Engineering's hangar - was covered by insurance, Mr Milne said. But Airbus is likely to have compensated Qantas for the millions of dollars in lost revenue as the plane remained grounded in Singapore.
Mr Milne assured that there was no question about the safety and reliability of the restored aircraft, and expressed confidence that this would not be an issue with passengers.
This article was first published in The Business Times.