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Originally published Friday, September 14, 2012 at 9:11 PM

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FAA directs airlines to check 787, 747 engines after failures

The National Transportation Safety Board issued urgent recommendations calling for examinations of a spinning shaft that cracked on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner during testing in Charleston, S.C., on July 28, spewing hot metal parts.

Bloomberg News

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U.S. airlines using General Electric GEnx jet engines will be asked to inspect their planes for signs of the type of flaws that led to a July explosion, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Atlas Air Worldwide is the only carrier flying the Boeing jets that would fall under the FAA rule. One of Atlas' two cargo planes with the engines was checked Friday, and no cracks were found, according to the FAA, which is preparing to issue a formal directive for the inspections.

"Because of the immediate threat of multiple engine failures on a single aircraft and the availability of an appropriate inspection procedure, there is an urgent need for the FAA to act immediately," the National Transportation Safety Board said in a letter to the agency.

The move expanded the scrutiny on GEnx engines since a Boeing 787 Dreamliner spewed hot metal engine parts onto a runway during testing July 28 in Charleston, S.C. A similar engine crack was found last month on a 787 that hadn't flown yet, according to the NTSB, and a 747-8 flown by a Russian cargo carrier suffered an engine failure on Sept. 11 in China.

"The agency will continue to review the recommendations and coordinate closely with the NTSB and GE as part of the investigation," the FAA said in the statement.

Atlas is reviewing the NTSB's notice, said Dan Loh, a spokesman for the cargo carrier.

GE, the world's largest maker of jet engines, said ultrasound inspections were almost complete on the engine part known as a fan mid-shaft that was blamed for the Charleston failure. The checks should be completed by early next week, said Rick Kennedy, a spokesman for GE.

Boeing 787s and 747-8 passenger planes that use the engines have all been inspected, leaving only nine 747-8 freighters still to be reviewed, said Jim Proulx, a spokesman for the plane-maker.

The GEnx-2B engine involved in the China incident, in Shanghai, will be sent to the U.S. to be taken apart "in a matter of days," Kennedy said Thursday. Visual checks after the incident found damage to the low-pressure turbine, with no breach of the casing, he said.

That episode involved a 747-8 freighter flown by AirBridgeCargo Airlines, a unit of Russia's Volga-Dnepr and the country's largest cargo carrier. The incident occurred before takeoff.

Boeing's Dreamliner, the world's first jetliner made chiefly of composite materials instead of traditional aluminum, uses either the GEnx-1B or engines from Rolls-Royce. The GEnx is the only option on the 747-8, the latest variant of Boeing's iconic humpbacked jumbo jet.

GE has delivered 10 GEnx-1B engines for the twin-engine Dreamliner and 108 GEnx-2B engines for the 747-8.

GE's Kennedy said the NTSB inquiry in the initial Dreamliner incident has made significant progress. GE has introduced a new coating process to the affected part of new engines, he said.

"As a result of findings to date, GE has introduced changes in the production process that address environmentally assisted cracking, including changes to the dry-film coating applied to the mid-shaft, as well as changes to the coating lubricant used when the retaining nut is clamped to the mid-shaft," he said.

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