General Electric Co. is investigating a second failure of its GEnx jet engine after a Boeing Co. 747-8 wide-body freighter flown by AirBridgeCargo Airlines lost thrust during takeoff in Shanghai three days ago.
The GEnx-2B engine will be sent to the U.S. to be taken apart “in a matter of days,” and all units in service are being inspected, a spokesman, Rick Kennedy, said yesterday in an e-mail. Visual checks after the incident found damage to the low-pressure turbine, with no breach of the casing, he said.
The failure is the second in less than two months involving a GEnx power plant from GE, the world’s biggest maker of jet engines. U.S. safety officials are probing why a GEnx component called the fan mid-shaft fractured and spewed hot metal parts during a test run of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner on July 28.
“If this is another mid-shaft failure, it places the engine and the airframes that are powered by it under a cloud,” said Robert Mann, a former American Airlines fleet manager who is now an aviation consultant in Port Washington, New York. While a single part breakdown would be seen as a “one-off,” a second on a different plane “would be a problem,” he said.
GE has finished its review of GEnx engines on the global 787 fleet, Kennedy said. About a dozen of Boeing’s four-engine 747-8 freighters remain to be checked, he said. The data are being shared with the National Transportation Safety Board as that agency investigates the Dreamliner case.
“We are gathering information” about the Shanghai incident, said Keith Holloway, an NTSB spokesman, who declined to comment further. Bret Jensen, a Boeing spokesman, said the company couldn’t discuss the case because of the NTSB inquiry.
Under international treaties, the NTSB would participate in the Shanghai probe because the planemaker and engine manufacturer are U.S. companies. Boeing is based in Chicago, and GE is based in Fairfield, Connecticut.
AirBridgeCargo, a unit of Russia’s Volga-Dnepr Group, is the country’s largest cargo carrier and has a fleet of 12 747 jumbo jets. A call placed to the airline’s Moscow headquarters before regular business hours today was answered and then terminated.
The carrier received its first 747-8, the latest variant of the iconic, humpbacked jumbo jet, in January and the second in March. It has three more on order with options for another five for a business that now consists mainly of flying cargo from European cities through hubs in Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo.
AirBridgeCargo also offers service to China, Japan and South Korea, and began flights to Chicago last year.
GE’s Kennedy said the NTSB inquiry in the Dreamliner incident has made significant progress. GE has introduced a new coating process to the affected part of new engines, he said.
The company has delivered 10 GEnx-1B engines for the twin-engine Dreamliner and 108 GEnx-2B engines for the 747-8. The GEnx is the only engine option on the 747-8, while GE competes with Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc for engines on the 787.
“GE continually monitors and analyzes the performance of the GEnx fleet in service, and we are not aware of operational issues that would affect the continued safe flight of aircraft powered by these engines,” Kennedy said.