GE Promises Quick Fix for Icing Problem in 787 Dreamliner, 747 Engines

By Paul Riegler on 26 November 2013
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Lufthansa's Boeing 747-8 jumbo jet

Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-8 jumbo jet

General Electric said it is close to finding a fix that will resolve the problem that causes some of its aircraft’s GEnx engines to lose power for a few seconds.  The problem was first reported on Saturday after several airlines flying planes with these engines said they would stop using them on certain routes.

The engines are used on some Boeing 787 Dreamliners as well as on all Boeing 747-8 Intercontinentals.

Six icing-related incidents have been reported with the GE GEnx engines since April of this year.  Five involved 747-8 Intercontinentals, one a 787 Dreamliner.  GE said that all of these aircraft landed safely at their final destinations without further incident and that, in every case, the engines resumed normal thrust.

The problem occurs when an engine takes in ice crystals, which then thaw and refreeze.  The engines lost power for up to five seconds after the refrozen ice chunks were sucked into the engines’ core.

General Electric reported on its progress on Monday and over the weekend Boeing issued an advisory telling airlines not to fly planes with these engines within 50 nautical miles of the kinds of storms that can allow such ice chunks to develop.

The warning, which was issued to airlines including Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, and United Airlines, said that aircraft with the GE GEnx engine must not be flown within 50 nautical miles of a thunderstorm that may contain ice crystals.  The notice affects a total of 17 passenger and cargo carriers.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday it will issue a directive later this week that echoes Boeing’s recommendation.

GE is developing a software update that will detect the conditions that cause the icing problem.  When icing is detected, the software will open a door in the outer part of the engine, ensuring the ice does not reach the engine’s core.  The company said it is “highly confident” that the update will resolve the issue.  The software is currently being tested and, pending regulatory approval, will be installed on impacted aircraft by the end of December.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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