Boeing Co., General Electric Co. and U.S. officials are looking into a malfunction that spewed metal debris from a GE engine on a 787 Dreamliner and caused an airport grass fire in South Carolina.
Material was ejected from the back of the engine during preflight testing, Rick Kennedy, a GE spokesman, said yesterday. Julie O’Donnell, a Boeing spokeswoman, declined to comment, saying the July 28 mishap at the Charleston, South Carolina, airport was still under investigation.
The incident was the second in less than 10 days involving engines from GE and Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc on Dreamliners. Japan’s All Nippon Airways Co. pulled five 787s with Rolls-Royce engines from service on July 21 after the manufacturer found that some components had a shorter-than-expected service life.
Boeing is “unaware of any operational issue that would present concerns about the continued safe operation of in-service 787s powered by GE engines,” according to a statement from the Chicago-based planemaker.
While the company said in the statement that the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board was investigating, an NTSB spokesman, Terry Williams, said today by e-mail that the agency was still gathering information to determine whether the incident was serious enough to warrant a formal inquiry.
The jet involved in the episode is due to go to Air India Ltd. Japan Airlines Co., the only current 787 operator using GE engines, is in contact with Boeing and GE and hasn’t received a directive to check the engines, Sze Hunn Yap, a spokeswoman, said in Tokyo today. JAL’s Dreamliners are flying as scheduled, she said.
The incident marked the first “significant issue” with GE’s new GEnx engine, Kennedy said. About 100 of the units are in service and are performing well, he said.
No one was hurt in the grass fire that occurred after debris from the plane fell onto the runway at the Charleston airport, said Becky Beaman, a spokeswoman for the facility. Two arriving flights were diverted and a departing Southwest Airlines Co. plane was delayed.
Boeing’s North Charleston factory is one of two assembly sites for the twin-engine 787, along with the company’s wide-body plant in Everett, Washington.
The Dreamliner is the world’s first jetliner with a fuselage and wings built chiefly from composite materials. All Nippon and Japan Airlines are the only airlines flying the plane, which entered commercial service in late 2011 after more than three years of delays.
Boeing designed the plane to fly long-haul routes while cutting fuel consumption. The 787 has become Boeing’s fastest-selling new model ever, with 859 orders through June, according to the planemaker’s website.
All Nippon was the first carrier to fly the Dreamliner in commercial service. United Continental Holdings Inc. has said it expects to start receiving 787s in September, which will make it the first U.S. airline to operate the jet.