Friday, October 13, 2017

FAA Demands Inspection Of A380 Jumbo Jet Engines After Air France Emergency

Another day, another problem for the Airbus A380. Today’s issue is directly related to that of Sept. 30, when an engine “came apart” on an Air France A380 flying from Paris to Los Angeles with 496 passengers and 24 crew aboard.

The engine explosion over Greenland led to an unscheduled landing at a Canadian Forces base at Goose Bay, Labrador, and an unplanned 24-hour plus delay in the passengers getting to their destinations. You can see an uncensored passenger video of the three-engine emergency landing here and here, including applause for the pilots. Engine components have been found in Greenland as well as on the arrival runway at Goose Bay.

The engine failure led directly to today’s news, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airworthiness Directive (AD) calling for visual inspection of fan hubs used in the engines of SE A380 aircraft with Engine Alliance (EA) engines.

The FAA issued the AD because it determined the “unsafe condition…is likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design.”

The Engine Alliance is a 50/50 joint venture between General Electric and Pratt and Whitney, a division of United Technologies. (A380s powered by Rolls-Royce engines are not affected by the directive.)

Specifically, the FAA emergency airworthiness directive requires owners and operators of Engine Alliance (EA) Model GP7200 series engines to visually inspect the engines. The operators are tasked with removing the fan hub if defects are found and replacing it with an airworthy part. Otherwise, the directive notes, failure of the fan hub could lead to an “uncontained release” of the hub, which could result in damage to the engine and the airplane.

The emergency AD was prompted by the uncontained engine failure which occurred on an EA GP7270 turbofan engine with 3,527 cycles since new, a relatively high use engine. The FAA specified that engines with 3500 cycles since new need to be inspected within two weeks. Engines with less than 3500 cycles since new need to be inspected within 5 weeks.

The GP7200 engines are reportedly in some 60% of the Airbus A380 superjumbos currently in service. Airlines operating the affected aircraft include Air France, Emirates (which operates nearly half of the world supply of A380s) Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways and Korean Air Lines. The airlines have so far not commented on how the inspections might affect their service.

Meanwhile, the FAA stated that it considers the AD “interim action” as “an investigation to determine the cause of the failure is on-going.”

As of now the A380 aircraft and the damaged engine are apparently still sitting in Labrador. Investigators are trying to deal with the “transport logistics” required to get the damaged engine back to a plant in Britain for examination while getting the damaged aircraft off the runway and back to Europe for repair and return to service.

(Michael Goldstein - Forbes)

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