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US Air Crash Update

Jan 26, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Last week, the second engine from the US Airways plane that was forced to crash-land in the Hudson River near Manhattan was found.  Now, Newsday is reporting that flight 1549’s engine is in the process of being raised from the Hudson, say authorities.

Bloomberg News previously reported that “organic material” and a feather were found on parts of the engine, which corroborates the pilot’s report of a bird collision leading to the forced landing.  The airbus’s right engine—the CFM56-5B4/pturbofan—was removed and shipped back to its manufacturer in Ohio for detailed investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), reported Newsday.  Meanwhile, the left engine was located at the bottom of the Hudson River, said Bloomberg News last week, and was located in about 50 feet of water.  The NTSB believes the engine shook loose on impact, said Bloomberg News.

The NTSB issued a statement last week saying the engine’s fan blades suffered “soft body impact damage” and a variety of other engine parts were “significantly damaged,” Bloomberg News reported.  The organic material, which was found on the right engine, wings, and fuselage was sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for DNA analysis, while the feather was sent to bird experts at the Smithsonian Institute for identification, said the NTSB.  The feather was found on a track for one of the wing flaps.  The Washington Post reported that other physical evidence was also found and that internal engine parts, in addition to being significantly damaged, were missing.

Regarding the left engine, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said, "We will then get a close look at all the parts of the engine,” quoted Newsday.  Also, Rick Kennedy, a spokesman for G.E. Aviation—co-owner of the engine maker, CFM International—said, "It will be about as full and detailed a disassembly as you can imagine … they will analyze everything," reported Newsday.

The left engine was sawed off of the plane; however, recovery of the right engine is more complex and has been delayed because of the equipment needed for the process, said Newsday.  Police divers and a crane are needed to raise the three-ton engine, explained Chris Gardner, U.S. Army Corps of Engineer spokesman, which is assisting in the recovery efforts, wrote Newsday.

Just two weeks before the now infamous crash landing, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandated increased inspections for that plane’s engine, reported Newsday, which noted that the engine was no stranger to a type of engine stall.  It turns out that the same plane also experienced mid-flight engine problems two days earlier, reported Newsday.  And while it remains unclear if the problems are related, the engine involved seems to require more in-depth inspections due to the engine stall to which it is more prone.

Engine stalls 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 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.


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