|The Airbus A380 superjumbo explosion on November 4 grounded the world's largest passenger aircraft [AFP]
Australia's Qantas Airways has resumed limited Airbus A380 superjumbo flights, three weeks after a mid-air engine blast grounded the fleet for intensive safety checks.
Alan Joyce, the chief executive of Qantas, joined the first leg of flight QF31 to London via Singapore, which left Sydney at 5:30 pm [0630 GMT] on Saturday with a full load of 453 passengers.
"It's great that we can reintroduce the aircraft," Joyce said.
"We are 100 per cent comfortable with the operation of the aircraft."
Only two of Qantas's A380s will initially return to service, with the airline taking delivery of two new superjumbos before the year's end and another two in early 2011.
The planes remain barred from trans-Pacific flights to Los Angeles because of the extra engine thrust required.
Qantas suspended its six A380s, which fly long-haul routes to London and Los Angeles, after a superjumbo's engine blew-up on November 4, forcing an emergency landing in Singapore.
Checks revealed problems with 16 of the total 24 Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines powering Qantas's A380s - four per plane - meaning the turbines would have to be replaced or modified.
"The decision to restore A380 services follows an intensive Trent 900 engine inspection programme carried out in close consultation with Rolls-Royce and Airbus," Qantas said in a statement this week.
"Together with the engine and aircraft manufacturers and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Qantas is now satisfied that it can begin reintroducing A380s to its international network progressively."
Qantas, which has never suffered a fatal crash in the jet age, had visiting English football star David Beckham pose on an A380 for the media this week, while Airbus ran full-page newspaper ads for the plane on Saturday.