US, UK investigators collaborating after US 777 incident similar to London crash

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The scene of the British Airways 777 crash. Is the recent power loss on a 777 in the US linked?

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the United States and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in the United Kingdom are working together 'closely' after a Delta Air Lines Boeing 777 in the US suffered an engine power incident. The event has similarities to the crash of British Airways Flight 38 in January at London's Heathrow Airport.

The AAIB and the NTSB are now collaborating to try and determine whether or not the two events are in fact linked. On November 26 a Delta 777-200ER cruising at 39,000 feet near Great Falls suffered a serious reduction in power on the right-hand (number 2) engine without input from either the flight crew or the aircraft's control systems. The pilots lowered the jetliner to 31,000 feet in accordance with procedures in the flight manuals and regained full power in the engine.

From that point on, the engine behaved normally again. The flight, Flight 18 from Shanghai, continued to its destination of Atlanta.

Investigators have noticed similarities to the January crash of a British Airways jet in London. Flight 38, another 777, suffered this same uncommanded loss of engine thrust in both engines during final approach to Heathrow on January 17, and crashed short of the runway. There were no fatalities, although several passengers were injured. The aircraft was written off.

An interim report by the AAIB, which is leading the investigation into the crash of Flight 38, has suggested that an ice buildup during the trip from China in the fuel supply caused the accident. As a result, Boeing recommended pilots of such aircraft occasionally rev up their engines on lengthy flights to stop ice from building up.

Both airliners were equipped with twin Rolls-Royce Trent 895 engines. The NTSB appointed Senior Air Safety Investigator Bill English as the accredited representative of the US to the AAIB on the London crash. Now, he has also been put in charge of the NTSB investigation into the Delta midair incident. The two investigative bodies are now working with each other to try to identify whether there are common circumstances behind both events.

Among the parties to the investigation are Eaton-Argotech. The firm manufactures fuel systems for commercial airliners, amongst other users. Also participating are the US Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing, Delta, and the Air Line Pilots Association.