GE/Rolls statement on new F136 anomaly

Bad news today for the General Electric/Rolls-Royce team producing the F136 alternate engine for the F-35 in defiance of the Department of Defense’s desire to kill the program.

GE/Rolls issued this statement about one hour ago to reporters:


Approximately three hours into a mechanical check-out on September 23 at the GE Aviation facility in Evendale, Ohio, an F136 development engine experienced an anomaly at near maximum fan speed.

Engine #008 was shut down in a controlled manner. Initial inspection revealed damage to airfoils in the front fan and compressor area. The engine is currently being disassembled for a thorough investigation.

The GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team is researching the manufacturing and assembly records for engine #008, an endurance engine in the development program.

The Fighter Team has run several builds of five F136 development engines for more than 1000 hours since early 2009 without experiencing this issue.

GE/Roll-Royce promptly inspected two other development engines now running in the program and neither engine exhibited similar distress. Prior builds were also inspected with no findings.

The Fighter Engine Team is continuing to run test engines #005 at the USAF Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) in Tullahoma, Tenn., and #007 at GE in Evendale.

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8 Responses to GE/Rolls statement on new F136 anomaly

  1. Atomic Walrus 28 September, 2010 at 9:38 pm #

    As a former test engineer, my sympathies are with the GE test crew right now. The PR spin is embarrassing, though – “The Fighter Team has run several builds of five F136 development engines for more than 1000 hours since early 2009 without experiencing this issue” It’s an engine that needs to last more than 10,000 h across a fleet of thousands of aircraft. A failure like this in a population of 5 test articles with a total run time of 1000 h points to a fairly major issue. Instead of F100 and F110, the precedent for this engine competition could be B-29 and B-32.

  2. Jetcal1 29 September, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    AW,
    Since the damage appeared to start with the fan, I’m wondering if there was a manufacturing (metallurgicall?) or mechanical assembly error. Don’t laugh, but I have also seen a few bellmouth failures or improerly installed T/C gear cause FOD.

  3. Atomic Walrus 29 September, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    Jetcal1,

    I’m sure everybody’s going to be tremendously relieved if it turns out to be a mechanical assembly error. Metallurgical or manufacturing issues could point to some process problems that can be very difficult to correct. My experience with advanced manufacturing processes is that the problems encountered are novel and often involve some fundamental research to resolve.

  4. Jetcal1 29 September, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    AW,
    Things breaking and new and interesting ways. I have always said that happens when the airplane is new and when it’s really long in the tooth,

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