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Engine glitch affects Dreamliners of Air NZ and others

April 18, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Air New Zealand is among airlines facing significant challenges to schedules after safety rulings by European and US regulators concerning Boeing 787 Dreamliners powered by a certain model of Rolls-Royce engine.

Other airlines heavily hit by the directives are Japan’s All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Norwegian Air and Virgin Atlantic.

Qantas and Jetstar operate Dreamliners too, but they are not affected, as their planes are powered by GEnx engines made by GE Aviation of Ohio, USA, rather than by Rolls-Royce engines.

Air New Zealand says it is working closely with Rolls-Royce “on a global issue involving some of the Trent 1000 engines that power its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner fleet”.

The New Zealand carrier continued: “Last month Rolls-Royce, in conjunction with European regulator EASA, issued a directive requiring operators of a type of Trent 1000 engine known as ‘Package C’ to carry out earlier than usual maintenance checks on a specific part of the engine compressor.

“This check was already required prior to the engine reaching a flying threshold of 2000 cycles (one-way journeys). The directive reduces that timeframe to 300 cycles. Rolls-Royce advises 380 engines globally are impacted by the directive, including nine in the Air New Zealand 787 fleet.

“Trent 1000 Package C engines that have operated fewer than 300 cycles are unaffected by this directive. Air New Zealand also has Trent 1000 TEN model engines in its 787 fleet and these are unaffected.

“Air New Zealand expects there will be some impact to its international schedule as a result of the checks and thanks customers in advance for their patience as it works through this this challenge at what is a very busy time for travel.”

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also acted on the issue, restricting planes using the affected engines from operating more than 140 minutes from an airport they can divert to in an emergency, a big reduction from the previous 330 minutes.

Rolls-Royce says the measure affects 383 engines currently in service, the Dallas Morning News reported. Boeing says about 168 planes, a quarter of the worldwide B787 Dreamliner fleet, have at least one of the affected engine models.

The paper said the restrictions stem from the discovery that under certain conditions, blades in the intermediate pressure compressor of the Trent 1000s vibrate when the engine is operating at high levels of thrust. Blade vibration can cause metal-fatigue, which can lead to engine failure.

The issue is reported to have contributed to several engine failures and there have been “numerous reports of engine-inspection findings of cracked blades”.

The major concern is that if one of the plane’s two engines failed for any reason, the other would have to run at maximum thrust so might suffer the vibration problem, which would “significantly increase the likelihood of failure of the remaining engine”.

Rolls-Royce is arranging with various airlines to inspect the engines. The inspections can take several hours and if any problem is found the engine has to be overhauled at a Rolls-Royce facility.

To fix to problem permanently, Rolls-Royce is redesigning the intermediate pressure-compressor.

Written by Peter Needham

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