A failure of the right engine of the Boeing 777 caused a spectacular fire and a shower of large debris on the ground. Ph. AFP
The spectacular fire in a Boeing 777 reactor on Saturday over Colorado occurred on an engine that has been proven for many years but is a new blow for the American aircraft manufacturer, which accumulates setbacks on its various types of aircraft. devices.
A United Airlines Denver-Honolulu flight had to return to land urgently on Saturday, less than half an hour after takeoff, after a failure of its right engine causing a spectacular fire and a rain of massive debris on the ground. There was no casualty.
According to the first findings of the NTSB, the US agency responsible for transport safety, part of the nacelle surrounding the engine was torn off and several blades of the fan, this huge fan by which air is drawn into the reactor, fractured.
“Engine failures, we will never avoid them and that is managed” explains to AFP François Grangier, airline pilot and expert with the French Court of Cassation. The risk is that a possible projection of debris will damage the aircraft.
Because jets like the Boeing 777 are designed to be able to fly on a single engine while they reach an airport. More than three hours for the engine in question, a Pratt & Whitney PW4000-112, according to the American engine manufacturer.
This engine, whose diameter is as large as a Boeing 737 fuselage, was “very innovative” when it was designed in the early 1990s and “is now in its adulthood,” recalls François Grangier.
It only equips Boeing 777. But of the 1,656 aircraft of this type, only 174 are equipped with different models of Pratt & Whitney engines. The others are supplied by General Electric or Rolls Royce, depending on the American aircraft manufacturer.
And the 128 aircraft in service or stored around the world, powered by the model in question – belonging to United Airlines, the Japanese JAL and ANA, or the South Korean Asiana Airline – have all been grounded while they were being carried out. inspections.
“As the debris has been spotted and the plane has returned, we will know what happened” and whether or not the maintenance procedures should be reviewed, assures the expert.
A similar mishap hit Airbus in 2017 when an A380 lost a significant portion of one of the four reactors over Greenland.
The French Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA) ended up finding the missing part buried in the snow almost two years later, and established that the engine explosion had been caused by a microcrack caused by premature fatigue. of a titanium alloy.
But for Boeing, Saturday’s incident resonates like an endless black series.
The reputation of the American manufacturer has been shattered by the setbacks of its new medium-haul, the 737 MAX, involved in two close-quarters accidents that killed 346 and banned theft for nearly two years.
In question, a flight control software, the MCAS, which was racing, putting the aircraft in a nose-down despite the pilots’ efforts to deactivate it.
Under the pressure and at the cost of billions of dollars, Boeing had to modify several software programs, including MCAS, reposition some wiring and admit that pilots had to undergo additional training.
It has also identified manufacturing defects on the “bestseller” of its long-haul, the B787 Dreamliner, which led it to suspend all deliveries of new aircraft since November.
More bad news in an aeronautics market affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and whose long-haul aircraft will be affected the longest, agree to say the specialists of the sector.
The ultimate setback, linked to the expected weakness of air traffic for the next few years, the group announced at the end of January that it was again delaying the first deliveries of its 777X, the largest aircraft in the world, now scheduled for the end of 2023.
The American aircraft manufacturer recorded a loss of $ 11.9 billion in 2020, the largest in the company’s history.
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