Tags: FAA | Airlines | Boeing | Dreamliner

FAA to Warn Airlines on Boeing Dreamliner Engine-Ice Risk

Monday, 25 Nov 2013 05:28 PM

U.S. regulators are poised to order airlines to avoid flying Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliners and 747-8 jumbo jets with General Electric Co. engines near thunderstorms after some of the planes experienced ice buildup.

The directive due this week is an “interim action” to ensure pilots avoid icing conditions that could sap thrust from GEnx engines, the Federal Aviation Administration said today. United Airlines has eight 787s, while Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc. has six 747-8 freighters, Boeing’s website shows.

The FAA action follows Boeing’s Nov. 23 warning to airlines to have the jets stay 50 nautical miles (93 kilometers) from storms, and adds to the early struggles of the 787. After a 2011 commercial debut that was more than 3 1/2 years late, the global Dreamliner fleet was grounded for three months in January after meltdowns in the lithium-ion battery packs on two planes.

“This looks a lot like a classic teething issue,” Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at Fairfax, Virginia-based consultant Teal Group, said by e-mail. “It’s probably isolated to just the engine, and even then just one of the two engines available as options. It’s also probably easily fixed with a software tweak, rather than any kind of hardware modification.”

Software Modifications

GE said it’s making software modifications to eliminate the ice-buildup risk and expects them to be available in the first quarter. Marc Birtel, a Boeing spokesman, said the engines’ design and maintenance practices, together with the new instructions, allow for the jets’ “continued safe operation.”

“The FAA has been working closely with Boeing and GE to monitor and understand these events as the companies develop a permanent solution,” the FAA said in a statement. It didn’t give a specific day for issuing the airworthiness directive on the planes, which only covers U.S. carriers.

The icing risk spurred Japan Airlines Co., the second- largest 787 operator, to shift to other jets on routes from Tokyo to Delhi and Singapore. Chicago-based United, a unit of United Continental Holdings Inc., hasn’t changed schedules or routes for its 787s, said Christen David, a spokeswoman.

Bonnie Rodney, a spokeswoman for Purchase, New York-based Atlas Air, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the FAA move.

Boeing fell 2.2 percent to $133 at the close in New York, while GE declined 1.3 percent to $26.73.

Six Episodes

There have been six cases since April of planes with GEnx engines temporarily losing thrust in high-altitude icing conditions, Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE said Nov. 23. Five were with 747-8s and one was with a 787, according to the e- mailed statement.

Japan Air will replace 787 Dreamliners on flights between Tokyo and Delhi with Boeing 777s today until Nov. 30, and will switch to 767s on its Tokyo-Singapore route, according to a Nov. 23 statement. The Tokyo-based carrier will make a decision this week on flights past Dec. 1, Jian Yang, a spokesman, said by telephone today.

Boeing delivered 98 Dreamliners through October, and surpassed 1,000 orders for the plane this month at the Dubai Air Show. The company handed over 57 of the four-engine 747-8s as of the end of last month, most of which are freighters.

The twin-engine Dreamliner, the first jet made chiefly of composite materials, entered service with ANA Holdings Inc.’s All Nippon Airways in October 2011. Tokyo-based ANA, the biggest Dreamliner operator, uses Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc engines on its planes.

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U.S. regulators are poised to order airlines to avoid flying Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliners and 747-8 jumbo jets with General Electric Co. engines near thunderstorms after some of the planes experienced ice buildup.
FAA,Airlines,Boeing,Dreamliner
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2013-28-25
Monday, 25 Nov 2013 05:28 PM
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