GE calls for new round of inspections on GEnx engines

Tue Oct 2, 2012 2:20pm EDT

* Service bulletin to be issued to airlines

* Focus is on low-pressure turbine after Shanghai failure

By Scott Malone

Oct 2 (Reuters) - General Electric Co is calling for a new round of inspections by airlines on its new GEnx engine on Boeing Co aircraft, with a focus on the section of the engine that failed on a 747-8 freighter in Shanghai last month.

U.S. inspectors have determined that a section of the engine called the low-pressure turbine caused the freighter's engine to fail. A cracked fan shaft was identified as the cause of a failure of a GEnx engine in a pre-flight test on a 787 Dreamliner in Charleston, South Carolina, in July.

"We're issuing a service bulletin within the next day or two to all the GEnx operators, and what that will do is call for an inspection of the low-pressure turbine area," Rick Kennedy, a spokesman for GE, said on Tuesday

GE is the world's biggest maker of jet engines.

Neither of the incidents has resulted in any injuries. But t he chief executive of Q atar Airways, Akbar Al-Baker, on Tuesday said his airline would not accept delivery of the 60 Boeing 787 Dreamliners it has ordered until the engines are modified.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration last month declared that aircraft using the GEnx engine should have their fan shafts inspected every 90 days to ensure that no new cracks develop. GE has since changed the way it makes the engine to use a new coating on the shaft intended to reduce the risk of cracks.

In both the Charleston incident, which occurred on a jet that was being tested before delivery, and in Shanghai, where a freighter aborted takeoff, U.S. regulators found the accidents were "contained," meaning that no parts from the engine endangered the main fuselage of the aircraft.

It is unusual but not unheard of for two failures to emerge on an engine already being sold to airlines, said William Storey, president of the Teal Group, an aviation consulting group.

"Usually that's the sort of failure that gets taken out in the development and testing process," Storey said. Qatar Air's threat, said, "should light a fire under GE" to resolve the problem.

In July, Japan's All Nippon Airways briefly grounded its Dreamliners after tests revealed a risk of corrosion in engines built by GE rival Rolls-Royce PLC. The aircraft returned to service in early August, and last month ANA said it would buy another 11 Dreamliners.

Boeing rival Airbus has faced problems with cracks in the wings of its A380 aircraft.

About 120 GEnx engines have shipped to airlines so far and another 1,000 have been ordered, a sales benchmark that no previous generation of GE engine met so quickly, GE officials said.

"It is essentially sold out for the next five years," Kennedy said.

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