Exclusive: FedEx grounds one plane over GE engine part concern

(Reuters) - FedEx Corp is grounding one of its planes temporarily that has an engine General Electric Co flagged after a passenger jet erupted in flames last month, a spokesman for the cargo airline told Reuters on Monday.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

Engine-maker GE on Friday alerted airlines about a small number of parts under investigation following American Airlines Flight 383, which caught fire on Oct. 28. The parts were made from the same lot of alloy as a turbine disk used by American, which GE subsequently discovered had a “material anomaly.”

While U.S. investigators have yet to assign blame for the non-fatal incident, they have found what appeared to be fatigue cracking where the disk had an anomaly. Experts have said the disk’s corrupted material may indicate a manufacturing defect, either by the parts or metal maker.

In a statement, FedEx spokesman Chris Allen said the company was notified that an engine in one MD11 aircraft was affected.

“The aircraft associated with the affected engine is temporarily not in service until the engine is replaced. Safety is our top priority,” he said.

GE on Friday said all but one of the parts related to the anomalous disk were out of service. The component on the now-grounded FedEx plane had been the one in operation, GE spokesman Rick Kennedy said on Monday.

“The part has been taken out of service, not because it was viewed as defective but because it was simply from the same lot of material,” Kennedy said in a statement.

The American Airlines flight from Chicago to Miami aborted takeoff following an “uncontained” engine failure, a rare event in which components spew from an engine and can tear through an aircraft cabin or rupture fuel tanks in the wings. The airline was flying a Boeing Co 767 aircraft with CF6-80C2 engines made by GE.

In this instance, the failure caused a fuel leak that resulted in a fire, though no one aboard was seriously injured.

GE has stressed the reliability of its CF6 engines, which it said had flown more than 400 million hours since the 1970s.

Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Stephen Coates