Tuesday, August 22, 2000

GE engines face inspection

CF6-80C2 compressors may have cracks

By Mike Boyer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday ordered stepped-upinspections of older CF6-80C2 engines, produced by GE Aircraft Engines, to detect compressor cracks that could lead to engine failure.

        The FAA airworthiness directive follows a June incident in which a Varig Brasil Airlines' Boeing 767 aborted a takeoff from Sao Paulo, Brazil, when the compressor, which increases pressure on air entering the combustor, broke. Four people were injured evacuating the plane.

        Earlier this month, the National Transportation Safety Board urged the FAA to order stepped-up inspections of the engine compressors, which are about the size of a beer keg.

        The FAA said there are 1,180 CF6 engines in the U.S. airline fleet involved in the increased inspections. The engines power jets such as Boeing 747, 767s, McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and MD-11 and Airbus Industrie A300, A310 and A330.

        Another 220 CF6 engines are operated by foreign airlines. The FAA order isn't mandatory for those carriers, but they typically comply.

        Les Dorr Jr., an FAA spokesman, said the agency estimates only about 40 CF6 engines in the U.S. fleet will have to be pulled out of service to comply with the new inspections, and that could lead to the grounding of three jets over the next 11 months.

        “We think the impact will be minimal on the U.S. fleet,” he said.

        The FAA directive requires engines with 10,500 takeoffs and landings to be inspected by May 31 and those with fewer takeoffs and landings to be inspected by July 29.

        Rick Kennedy, GEAE spokesman, said the order, which affects only CF6 engines built before 1995, means about 300 engines will have to be inspected sooner than they normally would be.

        Last winter, the FAA and GE told airlines to accelerate compressor inspections in the pre-1995 CF6s because of what's known as as “dwell time fatigue” — tiny cracks in titanium alloys triggered by prolonged stress.

        To minimize the impact of the new order on airlines, Mr. Kennedy said GEAE is in the process of getting FAA approval of a special engine probe, which can cut the engine inspection time down to a few days.

        The FAA estimated cost of engine removal and inspection at no more than $18.8 million. Mr. Kennedy said GEAE covers the costs of such inspections through special budgeted reserves.

        Five years ago, the FAA ordered increased inspections of compressors on several hundred CF6 engines because of tiny imperfections in the titanium known as “hard alphas.”

        Over the last 30 years, GEAE has produced more than 6,000 of the CF6 engines, which were produced in Evendale until 1994.

        Over the past five years, Mr. Kennedy said, there have been only two incidents of CF6 compressor failure — including the Varig incident.


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