Unclear if Crashed US Airways Jet Underwent Engine-Specific InspectionsJan 21, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
As the investigation into the crash landing of US Airways Flight 1549 continues, additional information about its engines continues to surface. It seems that just two weeks before the now infamous Airbus A320 was forced to crash land into New York’s Hudson River, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandated increased inspections for the type of engine used on the US Airways jet. According to a report in Newsday, that type of engine was no stranger to a type of engine stall.
It turns out that the same plane that was forced to crash land in the waters off of Manhattan also experienced mid-flight engine problems two days earlier, reported Newsday yesterday. In the New York crash, investigators confirmed that both engines failed and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that recovered black box data confirmed what the pilots first said: Birds collided with the jet causing them to make an unusual emergency landing into New York’s Hudson River, said Newsday.
Of the earlier, January 13th incident, a passenger told Newsday that the pilot announced that the plane’s right engine experienced a “compressor stall.” And while experts say compressor stalls can be resolved with a throttle decrease, such problems can cause permanent engine damage, reported Newsday. The Charlotte Observer explained that compressor stalls occur when air is reversed inside the engine, such as in the event of a strong gust of wind. Some stalls can be dangerous enough to cause bending or breaking of the engine blades and can shake planes to the point where instrument panels become unreadable, according to Kirk Koenig, a pilot and president of Expert Aviation Consulting, said The Charlotte Observer. Koenig pointed out that the January 13th problem could have potentially damaged the engine, making it more susceptible to the January 15th bird collision.
Meanwhile, news of the FAA’s December notification of the need for more intense engine inspections—an FAA Airworthiness Directive—was revealed as the probe widened to include the Airbus’ mid-air engine stall, said Newsday. The directive discussed compressor stalls and explained that such stalls could cause “an abrupt shutdown and violent shuddering of the plane,” said Newsday, which quoted the directive as explaining that this problem was “likely to exist or develop on” the CFM56-5B. Two of these engines powered the US Airways plane that suffered two incidences in two days.
Newsday pointed out that the FAA directive mandated airlines to perform the more intense inspections in the event “both engines record temperatures above a certain threshold and required the removal of at least one of those engines, even if it passes inspection.” The directive was issued after an Airbus with the same engine type experienced stalls in both engines on takeoff on December 15th, the Charlotte Observer reported. It has not yet been confirmed if the Airbus involved in the January 13th and 15th incidents underwent the inspection, said Newsday.
Of note, Newsday reported that Rick Kennedy, a spokesman for GE-Aviation, co-owner of engine manufacturer CFM International, confirmed that 12 of the CFM56-5B series engines had running temperatures above the threshold; all were older, like those on Flight 1549, and about 10 aircraft with such engines experienced compressor stalls last year, which resulted in CFM International issuing its own safety bulletin.