NTSB: Inspect new GE jet engines after failures

BOSTON, Sept 14 Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:50pm EDT

BOSTON, Sept 14 (Reuters) - The Federal Aviation Administration should require inspections of a new model of General Electric Co jet engine involved in two failures since July, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said on Friday.

The NTSB concluded that fan shafts on the GEnx aircraft engine are vulnerable to cracking. A crack in that shaft caused the failure of an engine of a Boeing Co 787 Dreamliner jet being tested before delivery in Charleston, South Carolina in July. A similar model of engine failed on a 747-7 freighter attempting take-off in Shanghai on Tuesday, though the cause of that failure has not yet been determined.

"Because of the short time to failure and the fact that all of the engines on any single airplane, whether the 787 or the 747-8, have all operated for the same period of time, the NTSB is not only concerned about the potential for further fractures occurring, but also the possibility that multiple engines on the same airplane could experience an FMS failure," the agency said on Friday, using an acronym to refer to the fan mid-shaft component of the engine that it is concerned about.

The NTSB also said it would urge the FAA to require regular inspections of the shafts in question.

GE, the world's largest maker of jet engines, said it has completed inspections of all but nine aircraft using the affected GEnx engines and had begun using a coating on the shaft similar to what it uses on other models of engine to prevent cracking.

"As a result of findings to date, GE has introduced changes in the production process ... including changes to the dry-film coating applied to the mid-shaft," said GE spokesman Rick Kennedy. He added that the largest U.S. conglomerate expects to complete inspections of the remaining affected aircraft by Tuesday.

The GEnx engine that failed in July caused a fire on grass near a runway during preflight testing. This week's failure, on a freighter aircraft already in service, caused the pilots to abort takeoff.

No one was injured in either incident.

GE's rivals in jet engines include United Technologies Corp and Rolls-Royce Holding PLC.

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