Concerns Raised About Pratt Engines

Inspectors have raised questions about the safety of the Pratt & Whitney engines on hundreds of Boeing 757s, the Associated Press reports.

The National Transportation Safety Board found problems in PW2037 engines on a Delta 757 that had an uncontained engine failure — that’s when pieces of the engine go flying off  — Aug. 6 in Las Vegas. An  investigation found that some retaining lugs in the engine were cracked and parts of them were missing.

Cracks have also been found in the lugs in a 757 flown by American Airlines and in four other PW2037 engines, the NTSB says.

The NTSB is recommending that the Federal Aviation Administration order more frequent inspections of the engines. The FAA must decide whether all the engines must be inspected, or only those made during a certain period — and then how many engines require inspection immediately.

The potential for disruption in passenger air traffic is big because of the sheer number of 757s involved. The NTSB says there are PW2037 engines on 725 289 [AP corrected, based on figures from Pratt] of about 1,000 Boeing 757s in service, though it’s not clear how many of those are passenger aircraft and how many carry cargo.

No doubt the FAA is mindful of the chaos that ensued when it ordered immediate inspections on hundreds of MD-80s last March. Those inspections hit American Airlines particularly hard because MD-80s comprised nearly half its fleet. Thousands of flights were canceled and hundreds of thousands of passengers were stranded.

American and Delta have lots of 757s – about a quarter of their fleets. And all the other major U.S. airlines have at least several dozen — except Southwest, which flies only 737s. 

While most some of those 757s can be presumed to have PW2037 engines, some most do not. Of those that do, many may not end up requiring immediate inspection. In any event, I think we can expect the FAA to try to minimize the disruption to passengers, considering the criticism it got over the MD-80 debacle.


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