Probe starts into 787 engine malfunction during S.C. testing
Material was ejected from the back of the engine during preflight testing, igniting a grass fire, General Electric spokesman Rick Kennedy said.
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Boeing, General Electric and U.S. officials are investigating a malfunction that spewed metal debris from a GE engine on a 787 Dreamliner and caused an airport grass fire in South Carolina over the weekend.
Material was ejected from the back of the engine during preflight testing, Rick Kennedy, a GE spokesman, said yesterday. Julie O'Donnell, a Boeing spokeswoman, declined to comment, citing the inquiry into Saturday's mishap at the Charleston, S. C., airport.
The incident was the second in less than 10 days involving engines from GE and Rolls-Royce on Dreamliners. Japan's All Nippon Airways pulled five 787 with Rolls-Royce engines from service July 21 after the manufacturer found that some components had a shorter-than-expected service life.
Boeing is "unaware of any operational issue that would present concerns about the continued safe operation of in-service 787s powered by GE engines," according to a company statement.
Spokesman Marc Birtel said the company could not disclose the nature of the engine issue due to rules surrounding the investigation.
"While the investigation is in its early stages, we are unaware of any operational issue that would present concerns about the continued safe operation of in-service 787s powered by GE engines," Boeing said in a statement. "However, should the investigation determine a need to act, Boeing has the processes in place to take action and will do so appropriately."
Boeing competitor Airbus on Friday announced another delay for its A350 aircraft, which is made with a significant amount of carbon composites and is considered a potential rival.
Boeing's North Charleston factory is one of two assembly sites for the twin-engine 787, along with the company's widebody plant in Everett.
The Dreamliner is the world's first jetliner with a fuselage and wings built chiefly from composite materials. All Nippon and Japan Airlines are the only airlines flying the plane, which entered commercial service in late 2011 after more than three years of delays.
Boeing designed the plane to fly long-haul routes while cutting fuel consumption. The 787 has become Boeing's fastest-selling new model ever, with 859 orders through June, according to the plane-maker's website.
The jet involved in the episode is due to go to Air India and is the first "significant issue" with GE's new GEnx engine, Kennedy said. About 100 of the units are in service and are performing well, he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board and GE are working with Boeing to learn what went wrong. The fire occurred when debris from the plane fell onto the runway and into grass at the Charleston airport, said Becky Beaman, a spokeswoman for the facility. No one was hurt, she said.
Two arriving flights were diverted and a departing Southwest Airlines plane was delayed at the Charleston airport. The facility is served by five airlines, including United Continental, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines.
All Nippon was the first carrier to fly the Dreamliner in commercial service. In September, United Continental expects to start receiving 787s, which will make it the first U.S. airline to operate the jet.