General Electric is calling for a new round of inspections by airlines on its new GEnx engine on Boeing aircraft, with a focus on the section of the engine that failed on a 747-8 freighter in Shanghai last month.
US inspectors have determined that a section of the engine called the low-pressure turbine caused the freighter's engine to fail. A cracked fan shaft was identified as the cause of a failure of a GEnx engine in a pre-flight test on a 787 Dreamliner in Charleston, South Carolina, in July.
"We're issuing a service bulletin within the next day or two to all the GEnx operators, and what that will do is call for an inspection of the low-pressure turbine area," Rick Kennedy, a spokesman for GE, said on Tuesday
Neither of the incidents has resulted in any injuries. But the chief executive of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al-Baker, on Tuesday said his airline would not accept delivery of the 60 Boeing 787s it has ordered until the engines are modified.
The US Federal Aviation Administration last month declared that aircraft using the GEnx engine should have their fan shafts inspected every 90 days to ensure that no new cracks develop. GE has since changed the way it makes the engine to use a new coating on the shaft intended to reduce the risk of cracks.
In both the Charleston incident, which occurred on a jet that was being tested before delivery, and in Shanghai, where a freighter aborted takeoff, US regulators found the accidents were "contained," meaning that no parts from the engine endangered the main fuselage of the aircraft.
It is unusual but not unheard of for two failures to emerge on an engine already being sold to airlines, said William Storey, president of the Teal Group, an aviation consultant.
"Usually that's the sort of failure that gets taken out in the development and testing process," Storey said. Qatar Air's threat he said, "should light a fire under GE" to resolve the problem.
In July, Japan's All Nippon Airways briefly grounded its 787s after tests revealed a risk of corrosion in engines built by GE rival Rolls-Royce. The aircraft returned to service in early August, and last month ANA said it would buy another 11 Dreamliners.
About 120 GEnx engines have shipped to airlines so far and another 1,000 have been ordered.
"It is essentially sold out for the next five years," Kennedy said.
Gravity always wins!