Damage to Boeing 777: Washington calls for in-depth testing of some engines
The United States Aviation Constable (FAA) on Tuesday ordered a thorough examination of the Boeing 777 engine blades, which were involved in a spectacular incident last week in a United Airlines flight before they could fly again.
Inspection by thermo-acoustic imaging of the titanium blades required by the regulator makes it possible to detect any cracks invisible to the naked eye.
Based on the results of the ongoing investigation and other elements, the FAA may decide to conduct more frequent inspections on the Boeing 777 equipped with some PW4000 engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney.
All companies operating the device in the world will send the blades to Pratt & Whitney, which will test at their workshops in Connecticut in the northeast of the United States, a spokesperson for the engine manufacturer told AFP.
According to Boeing, the company coordinating with airlines and aviation security agencies, “about 125 aircraft” in total are affected.
According to Boeing, which has a slightly different count, 128 aircraft are affected: 69 are currently in United Airlines, Japan Airlines (JAL), All Nippon Airways (ANA), Asiana and Korean Air, and 59 in reserve. The manufacturer, who recommended the timing suspension of flights on Sunday for more details, assured on Monday that they were all stable.
The right engine of a United Airlines aircraft of this type caught fire on Saturday shortly after takeoff from Denver in the western United States. When the plane was going back to the airport, debris rained down in a residential area.
No one was injured and the aircraft was able to land safely.
– “metal fatigue” –
The damage seen on the spot is consistent with the “metal fatigue” of the blade of the engine blower manufactured by Pratt & Whitney, according to preliminary findings of an investigation conducted independently by the US Office of Transportation Safety, NTSB. This physical phenomenon is associated with the use of a material over a long period of time, which can cause cracks and possibly breakage in the structure.
FAA boss Steve Dixon vowed at an online conference on Tuesday to act quickly to determine the cause of the incident and “take the necessary steps to prevent an incident from happening. The same happens in the future”.
The FAA had already called for enhanced inspections on a joint flight between San Francisco and Honolulu to review every 6,500 flights since the last incident in 2018.
The organization revealed on Monday that it considered further stringent inspections after a similar damage to a Japan Airlines flight in December 2020. But even when the incident took place on Saturday, he had not done so.
After analyzing the elements related to the incident, the FAA was “evaluating the need to adjust the inspection of the fan blades of the engines, according to a message sent to the AFP.”
The incident is also a setback for Boeing, recovering from a shock 737 MAX, its flagship aircraft grounded for nearly two years after two fatal accidents.
The damage is increasing for the manufacturer.
Dutch authorities have actually opened an investigation on Saturday after debris from a Boeing 747-400 cargo plane that injured two people in the south of the Netherlands.
A Delta Boeing 757 also had to make an emergency landing in Salt Lake City on Monday, “as a precaution after an indicative warning of a potential problem,” according to the company.
The United Airlines flight incident also takes the FAA back to the spot, with it being severely criticized for its supervision of the 737 MAX crisis, which many considered inadequate. Several aviation experts have also highlighted a potential maintenance problem.
Robert Kielb, an aeronautical engineering expert at Duke University, said all aircraft parts are designed to withstand possible failures. Saturday “presents an accurate example of what must be done if an engine fails,” he told AFP, welcoming the role of crew and air traffic controllers.
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