Engine failure on Springboks plane

A Qantas flight carrying the South African rugby team was forced to turn around two hours into its journey from Johannesburg to Sydney after an engine malfunctioned.

An Australian passenger, Mark Sowerby, said he was glad to be back on the ground after the aborted flight on Friday. ''It wasn't much fun at all; it was a pretty ordinary experience,'' the Brisbane business executive said.

''I was on the exit row, so I could see the engine. We were joking that if there were cameras at the airport we would say: 'We were fine but the Springboks turned to water.'''

Last night, the engineers union demanded an ''urgent investigation'' of Qantas's fleet after a series of engine failures over the past 18 months.

Qantas said a blade failure most probably caused the engine to overheat and vibrate. The airline rejected reports an engine had exploded.

The Springboks, who were on their way to Sydney for Saturday's opening game of the Tri Nations, made light of the scare on Twitter. Lock Alistair Hargreaves tweeted: ''One of the engines just failed and we had to turn round. Beautiful start to the trip!'' Qantas sent another plane yesterday for the stranded passengers.

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