LONDON/FRANKFURT - A EUROPEAN regulator flagged possible problems three months ago with the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine that powered a Qantas Airways A380 forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore this week.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) told airlines in an Aug 4 directive to conduct additional checks on the Trent 900 after it found 'wear, beyond engine manual limits' on certain parts, which 'present a potential unsafe condition to the aeroplane'.

Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said the Singapore incident may have been caused by a design issue with the engine, while Airbus parent EADS told A380 operators using Rolls-Royce engines to have them inspected.

'Engineers will make immediate visual checks with a boroscope, which allows them to look inside the engine physically for signs of wear. They may also dismantle the engine,' said Jeff Jupp, a fellow of Britain's Royal Academy of Engineering and a former Airbus technical director. 'I very much doubt if the incident was caused by anything fundamental to the architecture of the engine.'

This view is shared by analysts at Goldman Sachs who said in a note that they believed 'the problem will not be systemic' and highlighted 'the excellent record of the Trent family since it entered service in 1995, and the Trent 900 since 2007'.

EASA said directives like the Aug 4 one were issued regularly, and the agency did not see a link between the directive and the Qantas engine failure. On Thursday, Rolls-Royce, which said an investigation into the incident was at an early stage, advised A380 operators to perform safety checks on its Trent 900 engines.

Engine issue flagged in Aug