The US National Transportation Safety Board has appealed to the public to look out for parts of the General Electric CF34-3B1 engine that suffered catastrophic failure over Colorado on 25 January while powering a Mesa Airlines Bombardier CRJ200LR on a flight from Denver to Phoenix, Arizona.

The incident reportedly occurred as, or shortly after, the aircraft reached cruise altitude around 100km (54nm) out of Denver International airport. As the airport is east of the city, this would indicate a search zone to the south-west of the Denver metropolitan area. The crew declared an emergency and returned to Denver, where the aircraft landed without incident.

Initial investigations are believed to be focused on whether the engine suffered a fan disk separation or a shaft failure at the fan disk itself. Evidence from photographs taken of the remains of the engine, now quarantined, indicate that it suffered total loss of the entire fan disc and containment section, rather than just several fan blades as had earlier been reported.

CRJ CF34-3B1 engine failure    

The remains of the CF34 indicate that it suffered a major failure

The damage is similar in character to the CF6 failure in July 1989 which led to the loss of a United Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-10 at Sioux City, Iowa, and which also involved an appeal to the public to help search for engine debris.

GE cannot comment on the incident pending the results of the US NTSB investigation, but says 2,200 CF34-3 engines are in service "without any hints of a problem", and that the engine model has amassed more than 28 million flight hours. Investigations are expected to include Mesa maintenance records.

  • GE says a redesigned main fuel pump inlet strainer is being retrofitted to CF34-10Es powering the Embraer 190 series after failures of the unit's support legs led to three in-flight shutdowns in August and September 2006.

Source: Flight International