We all remember the BA 777 that lost power and crash-landed at London/Heathrow, right? Last September, an interim report was put out on the accident saying that ice buildup blocking the fuel flow was the likely culprit. Now Boeing is not only agreeing with that conclusion, but it is saying that it caused another 777 incident on a Delta aircraft. According to Boeing, the problem is only occurring with Rolls-Royce powered aircraft.
I’ll try not to get too deep into the weeds here, but there’s a place in the engine where fuel passes in tubes right next to engine oil. The hot oil warms the cold fuel and the fuel cools the oil so everything is in good shape. Apparently, the Rolls-Royce engines are not always able to adequately heat the fuel if it’s too cold, so ice has formed and blocked the fuel flow temporarily. In the BA accident, it was so close to the ground that there was no hope of recovery. In the Delta incident, the plane was cruising, so they were able to restart it without any serious issues.
It’s odd to see this report come out before the investigations are finished, but Boeing must have seen something that it really thinks needs to be fixed. The chance that this could cause another accident is slim, especially now that they’ve recommended some operational changes (like, fly lower where it’s warmer if necessary) that will help avoid the problem. But if you’re nervous about flying with a Rolls-Royce engine on the 777, let me try to put your mind at ease. Here is the breakdown of which airlines do not fly Rolls-Royce powered 777s. (This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it should cover the biggest operators.)
Non Rolls-Royce Powered 777s
- Air Canada
- Air France
Air New Zealand (777-200s), American, British Airways (some), Cathay Pacific, Delta (all but the Long Range aircraft), and Singapore are just a few examples of airlines that fly Rolls-Royce engines on their 777 fleet. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly on any of these planes right now, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to give a little peace of mind for those who feel a little nervous.