NTSB Targets CF6-80 Engines

Who remembers the American 767 that had an engine explode during maintenance at LAX back in June?

If not, click here for some refresher photos taken by the LA Fire Department. It was pretty nasty. Really, they’re lucky that it happened in maintenance, because an uncontained engine failure like that could have potentially brought a plane down.

Well, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its safety recommendation after reviewing the accident, and there are some pretty big changes in store if the FAA goes along.

The engine involved was a CF6-80. I’ll spare you the technical jargon (though you can see it here in the full report), but in short there was a fracture that started with a small dent in one of the blades. This caused the uncontained failure. You can see a piece of the problem section sticking out here:

aa767

There have been problems with this engine type before. Most notably on a US Airways 767 that had an uncontained failure during maintenance and an Air New Zealand 767 that had one in flight (they made it back safely). So, GE suggested airlines make modifications and the FAA required further inspections earlier in the decade. The NTSB thinks it’s not enough.

The NTSB does not have the ability to force airlines to do anything – that’s the FAA’s job. So, the NTSB makes recommendations and hopes the FAA implements them.

In today’s report, the NTSB’s biggest recommendations are:

  • Any CF6-80 that has more than 3,000 cycles (one cycle = one takeoff and landing) and hasn’t been modified or inspected under the special FAA and GE recommendations should be inspected immediately
  • Any CF6-80 that hasn’t been modified but has been inspected under the FAA recommendations should be reinspected immediately if it’s been more than 3,000 cycles since the inspection
  • A design review of the engine should be completed which could result in an engine redesign if serious problems are found

This engine has been in service for several years in one form or another, and it’s a very popular engine. It powers some A300, A310, A330, 747, 767, and MD-11 aircraft. Most airplanes offer more than one engine choice, and the airline gets to pick.

American uses CF6 engines on its 767s and A300s. US Airways uses the CF6 on the 767 but not the A330. Delta has CF6 engines on some of its 767s. Continental uses CF6 engines on its 767s as well. United doesn’t have CF6 engines on any of its aircraft.

Hopefully the FAA will take the NTSB’s recommendations and require airlines to follow through on this work.

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