Monday, October 25, 2010

Exploding Qantas engine turbines broke up

Air safety investigators have found extensive turbine damage in the jet engine that exploded on a Qantas jumbo at 25,000 feet near San Francisco in August.

Engine parts that were flung outwards tore not only a gaping hole on the far side of the engine cover but also peppered the near-side with holes, air safety investigators have revealed.

As the engine vibrated, debris ejected through the engine hole hit the underside of the wing, puncturing the wing flaps, investigators have found.

Despite passengers reporting seeing flames and sparks shooting from the engine, investigators say there were no indications of an engine fire. There was no damage to the plane's body.

All of the engine's turbine blades had either fractured or broken away, investigators said. There was also damage of other engine internals including vanes, bearings, speed probes and a turbine shaft.

Further testing of engine components will be undertaken by Rolls-Royce, overseen by UK air safety investigators. The Rolls-Royce RB211-524 engine was removed from the aircraft and taken to Hong Kong for examination. It was last overhauled in May 2009 and had accumulated 5000 flying hours since then. Investigators will further review the engine's maintenance records.

The findings are contained in a preliminary report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) into the explosion on flight QF74, carrying 213 passengers and 18 crew, on August 30. The incident occurred 15 minutes after take-off.

The pilots shut down the engine, sought landing clearance, dumped fuel and landed safely at San Francisco, where the plane was met by fire crew, inspected and allowed to taxi to the terminal.

"This was an exceptionally rare event and the first time Qantas has experienced this type of engine failure," a Qantas spokesman said. "The information contained in the report accords with our own investigation and initial conclusion that the turbine failure was the cause. "We continue to work with the ATSB and Rolls-Royce on their investigations," the spokesman said.


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