More than 150 Airbus A380 superjumbo jets require urgent inspection following the discovery of a cracked engine part that blasted off of Air France flight 66 as it was flying over Greenland in September 2017.
France’s civil aviation investigation bureau (BEA), Airbus, and Air France have been investigating the mid-air explosion of one of the flight’s four engines. Air France was flying from Paris to Los Angeles when the engine explosion occurred. The plane, carrying 497 passengers and 24 crew, made a safe emergency landing in Goose Bay, Canada.
Nobody was injured in the accident, but uncontained engine failures are critical for aviation regulators and manufacturers to understand. Such a malfunction can blast shrapnel that could potentially penetrate the fuselage and harm the other engines.
French investigators discovered the titanium alloy “fan hub” part buried in Greenland’s ice sheet while conducting a high-tech aerial radar search. The discovery shifted the focus of the 2-year-old investigation after BEA investigators discovered the titanium alloy part bore a “sub-surface fatigue crack.”
The cracked fan hub was linked to a suspected manufacturing flaw that will require other Airbus A380 planes to undergo inspections with urgency. Inspecting the parts would require dozens of the double-decker Airbus planes to be temporarily pulled out of service outside their normal maintenance schedules.
The fan blade was made by Engine Alliance, a manufacturing firm jointly owned by General Electric and Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies. It is the centerpiece of the massive engines built for the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger jet. The part measures about three meters wide.
According to Reuters, Engine Alliance-made engines power 152 of the world’s 237 Airbus A380s – just over 60%. The others are made by competitor Rolls Royce.
Other commercial carriers operating A380s with Engine Alliance engines besides Air France include Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad, and Korean Air.
Thirty years ago, a defective titanium alloy part contributed to the crash of United Airlines flight 232 in Sioux City, Iowa, that killed 111 out of the 296 people aboard the flight. The crash shed light on deficient manufacturing processes for titanium alloy parts and led to production improvements.
Mike Andrews, a lawyer in the firm’s Personal Injury and Products Liability section, focuses much of his practice on aviation accident litigation. He has represented people seriously injured in aviation crashes, and the family of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes. He also currently representing family members of those killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash involving the Boeing 737 Max that led to the worldwide grounding of those planes.