NTSB Issues Urgent Recommendation Letter Regarding GEnx Engines

The National Transportation Safety Board, the aviation safety regulator in the USA, has issued an urgent recommendation letter regarding General Electric GEnx engines. These engines power Boeing’s latest models, the 747-8 and some 787s. Air India’s 787s are powered by GEnx engines.

The recommendations to the FAA:

Issue an airworthiness directive to require, before further flight, the ultrasonic inspection of the fan midshaft in all General Electric GEnx-1B and -2B engines that have not yet undergone inspection. (A-12-52) Urgent

Require operators to accomplish repetitive inspections of the fan midshaft (FMS) in all (on-wing and spare) General Electric GEnx-1B and -2B engines at a sufficiently short interval that would permit multiple inspections and the detection of a crack before it could reach critical length and the FMS fractures. (A-12-53) Urgent

These recommendations come after GEnx engines experienced major failures recently. The first was on July 28th, when an undelivered Boeing 787 aircraft (bound for Air India) experienced an engine failure in Charleston, causing a grass fire. After inspection, it was found that this failure was due to a fan midshaft fracture. In August, another 787 was found to have a similar crack in the fan midshaft.

On Tuesday, a Boeing 747-8 also had a similar failure in Shanghai. While time has not been sufficient to prepare a full report, the NTSB is concerned enough to issue these recommendations.

This is bad news for Air India, who recently took delivery of the 787. If significant engine issues present themselves, the aircraft may be grounded. The DGCA already dragged its feet on issuing safety clearance for the 787 last month, citing the same engine issues. If the DGCA were to pull the safety clearance, it would be a very big issue for Air India.

Future deliveries have also been delayed further pending clarification from engine manufacturer. The second aircraft, VT-AND, was originally to be delivered early next week.

In addition to Air India, Japan Airlines and Lufthansa operate aircraft powered by the GEnx to India on a regular basis.