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General Electric says allegations of flaws in engine type involved in Las Vegas Boeing 777 explosion “completely inaccurate.”

16 September 2015

On September 8, one of the two engines of a British Airways Boeing 777 exploded during take off from Las Vegas airport. The captain was able to abort and stop the aircraft in time, evacuating all the passengers and crew without injury, but there is evidence that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned both Boeing and General Electric about flaws in the engine type four years ago.

According to the Daily Beast, the FAA issued an airworthiness directive in 2011 relating to the engine in question, a General Electric  GE90-85B turbofan, after discovering cracks in a weld joint. The directive said “The unsafe condition could result in uncontained engine failure and damage to the airplane.”

GE and Boeing  initially unsuccessfully petitioned the FAA to remove the “unsafe condition” paragraph, saying they did not agree there was a risk.

The regulator ruled that the products must undergo “mandatory repetitive inspections.” Airlines would have to check up on the engines after 48,000 hours of use or 6,000 flights.

“One thing that investigators will now have to consider,” the Daily Beast said, “is whether the intervals between inspections mandated by the FAA were too long and that a crack appeared in the compressor and went undetected.”

Following up on the Daily Beast article, Fortune contacted all the companies involved in the incident. British Airways and Boeing said they would not comment while the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] investigation was active.

A GE spokesperson told Fortune the Daily Beast story was “completely inaccurate”. It said the four-year-old FAA AD about the GE90 highlighted in the article made specific reference to a part that was not installed into the GE90-85 engine involved in the BA incident.

A subsequent article in the Daily Mail revealed that the Las Vegas incident was the second in which a BA 777 had had serious engine problems. An earlier flight from Houston to London had to return to its airport of departure after a defective turbine blade in one of its GE 90-85Bs caused excessive vibration and the cabin to fill with smoke.

And on November 7, 2012 an Emirates Airlines Boeing 777 suffered an engine failure on take off from Bangkok International Airport in Thailand. The pilot managed to shut down the engine and put out the blaze with onboard fire extinguishers. The aircraft continued to Mumbai in India where it underwent a single engine landing.

GE told the Daily Mail the engine had an outstanding safety and reliability record since entering service in 1995: “The GE90 is among the world's most reliable engines, powering more than 900 Boeing 777 aircraft and accumulating more than 50 million flight hours.”


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