Boeing warns of engine icing risk on 747-8s, Dreamliners

SEATTLE/TOKYO Sat Nov 23, 2013 7:04pm EST

1 of 2. A staff of Japan Airlines' (JAL) walks past one of the company's Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner plane at Narita international airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, November 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

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SEATTLE/TOKYO (Reuters) - Boeing (BA.N) advised airlines on Friday about a risk of engine icing problems on its new 747-8 and 787 Dreamliner planes with engines made by General Electric (GE.N), urging 15 carriers to avoid flying them near high-level thunderstorms.

The warning led Japan Airlines (9101.T) to pull 787 Dreamliners from two international routes. Other affected airlines include Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), United Airlines, an arm of United Continental Holdings (UAL.N) and Cathay Pacific Airlines (0293.HK).

"Boeing and JAL share a commitment to the safety of passengers and crews on board our airplanes. We respect JAL's decision to suspend some 787 service on specific routes," a Boeing spokesman said.

The move followed six incidents from April to November involving five 747-8s and one 787 when aircraft powered by GE's GEnx engines suffered temporary loss of thrust while flying at high altitude.

The problem was caused by a build-up of ice crystals, initially just behind the front fan, which ran through the engine, said a GE spokesman, adding that all of the aircraft landed at their planned destinations safely.

Boeing on Friday issued a notice prohibiting the affected aircraft from flying at high attitude within 50 nautical miles of thunderstorms that may contain ice crystals.

Japan Airlines said on Saturday it will replace Dreamliners on its Tokyo-Delhi and Tokyo-Singapore flights with other types of aircraft while also dropping a plan to use 787s for its Tokyo-Sydney route from December.

JAL will continue to fly 787s for other international routes, which are unlikely to be affected by cumulonimbus cloud for the time being, a company spokesman said.

"The aviation industry is experiencing a growing number of ice-crystal icing encounters in recent years as the population of large commercial airliners has grown, particularly in tropical regions of the world," the GE spokesman said.

GE and Boeing are working on software modifications to the engine control system, which they will hope will eliminate the problems, he added.

The 787 can be powered by either GEnx engines or rival Trent 1000 engines made by Rolls-Royce Plc (RR.L), while the 747-8 is powered exclusively by the GE engine model.

(The story corrects to say JAL flies 787 only on international routes and that 747-8 is powered only by GEnx engines.)

(Reporting by Tim Kelly and Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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Comments (3)
phoen2011 wrote:
Boeing keep on putting at risk the lives of the passengers. When are they going to fix finally the Dreamliner’s design faults ? Are they waiting for a crash before taking actions? What a ruthless company !

Nov 24, 2013 7:04am EST  --  Report as abuse
ajsfca wrote:
One would think that the Boeing company and GE would outright fix the physical/mechanical/design problem, instead relying on a software modification which the GE spokesman says will hopefully eliminate the problems. This is a scary and worrisome notion. How confident and secure does that make one feel when the flight one is on uses Boeing aircraft using GE jet engines?

Nov 24, 2013 11:46am EST  --  Report as abuse
nickjacket wrote:
A software upgrade that can better interpret an icing condition that an engine can handle is a sound and safe method of addressing the problem. Upgrades and modifications after delivery will be common among manufacturers that have had to move technology forward in order to stay competitive.

Nov 24, 2013 7:56pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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