NTSB issues urgent safety recommendation for General Electric CF6-45/50 engines

The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued two urgent safety recommendations affecting General Electric CF6-45/50 engines.

This engine is found mostly on cargo aircraft like Airbus A300s (now retired by Air India), Boeing 747s, DC-10s, MD-11s, and U.S. Air Force KC-10 tankers. However, there is a case involving a passenger Boeing 747-300 of Saudi Arabian Airlines.

The NTSB bulletin details the failure and four incidents

All recommendations apply to the low pressure turbine (LPT) stage 3 (S3) rotor disk in the General Electric (GE) CF6-45/50 series turbofan engines that can fail unexpectedly when excited by high-pressure (HP) rotor unbalance.

An uncontained engine event occurs when an engine failure results in fragments of rotating engine parts penetrating and exiting through the engine case. Uncontained turbine engine disk failures within an aircraft engine present a direct hazard to an airplane and its passengers because high-energy disk fragments can penetrate the cabin or fuel tanks, damage flight control surfaces, or sever flammable fluid or hydraulic lines. Engine cases are not designed to contain failed turbine disks. Instead, the risk of uncontained disk failure is mitigated by designating disks as safety-critical parts, defined as the parts of an engine whose failure is likely to present a direct hazard to the aircraft.

In its safety recommendations to the FAA, the NTSB cited four foreign accidents, which the NTSB is either investigating or participating in an investigation led by another nation, in which the aircraft experienced an uncontained engine failure of its GE CF6-45/50 series engine.

The date, location, and circumstances of these four events (none had injuries or fatalities) are as follows:

  • On July 4, 2008, a Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) Boeing 747-300 experienced an engine failure during initial climb after takeoff from Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This investigation has been delegated to the NTSB.
  • On March 26, 2009, an Arrow Cargo McDonnell Douglas DC-10F, about 30 minutes after takeoff from Manaus, Brazil, experienced loss of oil pressure in one engine. The pilots shut down the engine and diverted to Medellin, Columbia. This investigation has been delegated to the NTSB.
  • On December 17, 2009, a Jett8 Cargo Boeing 747-200F airplane was passing through 7,000 feet above ground level (agl) when the flight crewmembers heard a muffled explosion and immediately applied left rudder. With one engine losing oil pressure, the airplane returned to land at Changi, Singapore. The NTSB is participating in the investigation that is being led by the Air Accident Investigation Bureau of Singapore.
  • On April 10, 2010, an ACT Cargo Airbus A300B4 experienced an engine failure while accelerating for takeoff at Manama, Bahrain. The crew declared an emergency, rejected the takeoff, activated the fire suppression system, and evacuated the airplane. The NTSB is participating in the investigation that is being led by the Bahrain Ministry of Transportation – Civil Aviation.

The full safety bulletin is available here. The NTSB safety recommendation letter to the Federal Aviation Administration with all four safety recommendations in PDF format can be found here.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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