SYDNEY - PRAISE poured in Friday for the unflappable Australian pilot of an A380 superjumbo who calmly landed the massive aircraft after a mid-air engine blast.

Richard Champion Crespigny returned the Qantas plane carrying 466 people to Singapore on Thursday after one of its four engines failed just minutes after take-off, slightly damaging a wing and showering debris on a town below.

Passengers praised the way 53-year-old Crespigny, who has 35 years of flying experience, reassured them over the Airbus intercom during the unfolding emergency.

'I do apologise. I'm sure you are aware we have a technical issue with our no. 2 engine,' he said, in an in-flight recording of the incident posted on the Internet. 'I'm sure you are aware we are not proceeding to Sydney at this stage. The aircraft is flying safely at this stage. Thank you for your patience.'

Sydney man Simon Johnson, who was on board the flight, said passengers saw something fall away from the double-decker plane and then heard loud bangs as the plane shuddered. 'The captain was fantastic, as were the crew,' Johnson told the Sydney Morning Herald, adding that there was no panic but 'obviously your stomach sort of drops when you hear those bangs'.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce also praised Captain Crespigny's skills in bringing the plane down safely. 'The pilot and the crew handled this superbly,' he told a press conference in Sydney. 'They landed the aircraft fully safely.'

Mr Joyce said the captain told him he had full confidence in the Qantas A380s, which the airline has grounded for safety checks. 'He was so positive about the aircraft,' Mr Joyce said. 'He says he loves the aircraft. He thinks it's a fantastic aircraft. And he's 100 per cent convinced that this is a great aircraft to fly.'

Praise for 'fantastic' captain