SYDNEY Australia's Qantas Airways hopes to have its grounded fleet of six Airbus A380s flying again "within days" following urgent checks after an engine failure, chief executive Alan Joyce said on Saturday.
Joyce said he was optimistic that the world's largest passenger plane would pass the tests, as two safety incidents on consecutive days overshadowed lavish celebrations to mark the airline's 90th anniversary this month.
The airline grounded its six A380s after an engine failure on one of the aircraft on Thursday during a flight to Australia, which forced it to make an emergency landing in Singapore.
It marked the biggest incident to date for the world's largest passenger plane, which has been in service since 2007. The incident forced other airlines to recheck their own A380s.
"We are hopeful that within days we will have our A380 fleet flying again," Joyce said at an event in Sydney to mark the anniversary this month of the founding of Qantas in 1920.
In a second incident on Friday, a Boeing 747 en route to Australia was also forced to turn back to Singapore. Joyce said an engine on that plane produced "smoke and sparks" but called it a "contained engine failure" and said there were no plans to ground the airline's 747 fleet.
"We are not concerned about our 747 fleet," he said.
However, the incidents have cast a shadow over Qantas' anniversary celebrations, which on Saturday included a visit by Hollywood actor John Travolta, who is a pilot and an aviation enthusiast.
Travolta piloted his own vintage 707 in old Qantas livery for the cameras before voicing his personal support for the airline.
"The Qantas brand around the world is very strong," Travolta said.
A Qantas spokeswoman told Reuters that although both Thursday and Friday's incidents involved Rolls-Royce engines they were of different types and the incidents were distinct.
"They are different aircraft and they are different engines. They are very different incidents," she said.
Shares in Rolls-Royce, Airbus parent EADS and Qantas all lost ground on Friday following Thursday's incident.
(Editing by Andrew Marshall)