Boeing Dreamliners GE engine on urgent watch
The engine installed on every Boeing 787 built in South Carolina so far has a problem.
GE power plant problems
The beginning: The second Boeing 787 built in South Carolina experienced a fiery engine failure on July 28 that prompted a National Transportation Safety Board investigation and international headlines.
Since: Two other GEnx engines have been found to have a similar problem with their drive shafts, and now the Federal Aviation Administration appears poised to require regular inspections of all such engines.
What’s next: Affected 787s and 747s will have to be inspected regularly for cracks in their engines’ fan midshafts and, according to one expert, the shafts will have to be replaced in every engine.
The first sign something was wrong came on a Saturday afternoon in July when the second locally made Dreamliner experienced a pre-flight engine failure as it accelerated down the runway at Charleston International Airport.
A month and a half later, the extent of the defect has become clearer — and bigger.
The North Charleston incident was not isolated, as had been the original hope. Instead, two other General Electric-made GEnx engines have been found to suffer from a similar defect in the drive shaft. And the concern is the problem could be even more widespread, inherent to the make-up of the engine itself.
That news came Friday afternoon as the National Transportation Safety Board, which has been investigating the July 28 incident, issued a pair of urgent safety recommendations regarding the fan midshafts of GEnx engines.
The NTSB called on the Federal Aviation Administration to require ultrasound inspections of all GEnx-powered 787s and 747s not already inspected before any further flight. The NTSB also recommended the FAA require repetitive inspections of the fan midshafts of all GEnx engines “at a sufficiently short interval that would permit multiple inspections and the detection of a crack before it could reach critical length and the FMS fractures.”
That’s what happened in Charleston in July and on Tuesday as a Boeing 747-8F cargo jet was preparing to take off from Shanghai.
The FAA released a statement Friday saying it “will soon issue an emergency airworthiness directive and will take appropriate action.” The FAA statement noted Atlas Cargo Airlines is the only operator with two affected U.S.-registered aircraft. “We understand one inspection was completed (Friday) with no findings and the second aircraft will be inspected over the weekend,” the FAA said.
Read more later at postandcourier.com and in tomorrow’s newspaper.