V Australia grounds 777 after engine problem aborts take-off

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The Virgin Blue group's long-haul subsidiary V Australia has grounded one of its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in Los Angeles after it experienced unspecified engine problems and aborted its takeoff mid-roll.

The incident occurred shortly before 23:00hr on 13 April on flight VA2 departing Los Angeles International's runway 25R for Sydney. The aircraft shortly thereafter exited the runway.

A V Australia spokesman was unable to confirm if the General Electric GE90 powerplant experienced an engine surge or how long the aircraft would be out of service, saying the carrier was awaiting a preliminary report into overnight engineering inspections. The report is due this morning in Australia.

According to air traffic control recordings, the crew of VA2 reported to the Los Angeles tower at the time of the incident: "Our engine functions appear to be normal but there seems to be something of significant impact - I'm not sure it's the nose gear or the main gear."

Another airline crew responded: "We happened to look at the front of that aircraft when he aborted and I saw some sort of spark near the nose gear. I don't know if there was a blown nose gear tyre but it looked like it might have been that."

A third airline crew reported they saw a "fireball out of your number one engine".

V Australia has chartered a Boeing 747-400 from Air New Zealand (ANZ) "to maintain schedule integrity". The carrier has so far cancelled the affected VA2 flight as well as today's Brisbane-Los Angeles service.

The ANZ 747 will operate today from Australia to Los Angeles and then make the return journey. The spokesman could not say how long the aircraft would be chartered for but that he expects it to complete "at least a few sectors".

V Australia says it is accommodating passengers, including putting them on other carriers' flights.