New York: Boeing Co., General Electric Co. and US 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.
“Material was ejected from the back of the engine during preflight testing, Rick Kennedy,” a GE spokesman, said on Sunday. Julie O’Donnell, a Boeing spokeswoman, declined to comment, citing the inquiry into the July 28 mishap at the Charleston, South Carolina, airport.
“The jet involved in the episode is due to go to Air India Ltd 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.
An Air India spokesman said the incident has been notified locally to the US federal agencies. “We understand this was specific to this particular engine only,” he said adding, “We will wait for the reports of the investigation.”
The incident was the second in less than 10 days involving engines from GE and Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc on Dreamliners. Japan’s All Nippon Airways Co. pulled five 787 with Rolls-Royce engines from service on 21 July 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 statement from the Chicago-based plane maker.
Japan Airlines Co., the only 787 operator that uses GE engines, is in contact with Boeing and GE and hasn’t received a directive to check the engines, Sze Hunn Yap, a spokeswoman at the carrier, said in Tokyo on Monday. JAL is operating the planes as scheduled, she 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 Co. plane was delayed at the Charleston airport. The facility is served by five airlines, including United Continental Holdings Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines.
Boeing’s North Charleston factory is one of two assembly sites for the twin-engine 787, along with the company’s wide-body plant in Everett, Washington.
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.
Chris Cooper in Tokyo and Tarun Shukla of Mint contributed to the story.