The failed General Electric engine from the recent incident involving a British Airway Boeing had been previously described by the Federal Aviation Administration as in an “unsafe condition”, and now Boeing and GE are under fire about the revelations.
A British Airways Boeing 777 experienced the engine failure last week while taking off from Las Vegas, resulting in fire and debris blasting into the wing and fuselage of the airplane.
The incident had the potential to be a massive catastrophe, as the airplane was loaded with more than 20,000 gallons of fuel. If the gas tanks of the plane had ignited, a severe fire would have made an escape for crew and passengers very unlikely.
It has recently been uncovered that the General Electric engine was issued a safety warning from the FAA four years prior. The FAA described the engine as in an “unsafe condition.”
Boeing and GE disagreed with the description provided by the FAA at the time. The companies had unsuccessfully attempted to have the term “unsafe condition” taken out of the final ruling. They argued that the flaw could not endanger the other portions of the aircraft.
The engine contained a flaw that the FAA warned could result in the “disintegration of the engine’s turbine and the explosion of high-velocity debris that would endanger an airplane.” Such an incident is exactly what occurred last week.
Investigators must now consider whether the intervals between FAA mandated inspections were too long for the possibility that an undetected crack developed in the compressor.
Kudos should be given to the British Airways pilots that showed great skill in the situation. The pilots managed to successfully abort the takeoff. They had to brake so severely that some of the landing gear tires had burst. Keeping control of the aircraft during this critical moment involved great technique.
Photographs of the airplane indicate that the protective casing on the left engine’s right side had been torn to shreds. Some of the shreds ended up on the runway, while other parts tore up the inner wing and fuselage, resulting in major damage.
The event could have been much worse. An anonymous expert of the Boeing 777 airplane stated, “In this case the damage appears to be so severe that it could very well have involved the burning of fuel, or oil, until the fuel flow was cut off.”
If such an incident had occurred, hundreds of deaths might have taken place.
The video of the event shows dark smoke and a flame burst erupting from the engine. Luckily, quick-working firefighters were able to prevent the flames from reaching the fuel tanks in the wings of the plane.
An engine failure such as this one is a major anomaly, as jet engines today are typically extremely reliable. The Boeing 777 is the largest airplane that is equipped with only two engines. Even if one engine fails, it is designed to fly for up to five hours on the other engine.
But in this instance, had the incident occurred while the plane was in the air, the damage to the plane would have most likely made it unsustainable for flight within a few minutes.
Thankfully, the plane hadn’t taken off yet. This incident could have been much worse.