Andrea Spinelli/GENOA

Rolls-Royce and Fiat Avio have instituted a Spey engine compressor-blade inspection and replacement programme on the Italian air force's AMX combat aircraft, in the wake of an accident which left the aircraft idle from January until 22 March.

The crash was attributed to the loss of a second-stage low-pressure-compressor blade. The Brazilian air force, which also operates the AMX, also suspended flying.

Neither R-R nor Fiat, which produces the Spey Mk 807 under licence, is willing to discuss details of the incident. There is understood to be considerable friction between the two companies as to, which is primarily responsible for the failure.

Suggestions of a quality problem in the manufacturing process have yet to be confirmed, although, as part of the inspection process, "surface anomalies" are being sought. A material defect is one possibility being considered.

The Spey's low-pressure-compressor governor is also to be temporarily modified to a reduced setting in an attempt to avoid a repetition of the incident, which resulted in the aircraft loss.

The blade-inspection process will be conducted sequentially, to try to minimise the impact on the air force. The AMX fleet was grounded while being used in the Nato Joint Endeavour/Deny Flight operations in the former Yugoslavia.

During the grounding, the air force used Aermacchi MB339s to keep its pilots current.

This is the second occasion on which the AMX has been grounded following engine concerns. After a previous aircraft loss, the fan casing for the engine on the AMX was redesigned.

Additional reporting by Douglas Barrie.

Source: Flight International