Key Points:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) newly proposed rule highlights potential defects in GE Aerospace turbofan components due to "iron inclusion."

  • The proposal would necessitate airlines to replace certain parts in some GE90s immediately if the rule is finalized.

  • The issue of iron inclusion in GE components, linked to manufacturing process deficiencies, follows regulatory findings from the previous year.

GE Addresses Potential Flight Safety Concerns; Takes Corrective Steps

WASHINGTON D:C — the US government released a proposal from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that could require airlines to replace specific components in some GE Aerospace's GE90 turbofans. This new airworthiness directive (AD) proposal is in response to the discovery that several GE Aerospace engines might have components manufactured with a "powered metal material" that the FAA suspects contains iron inclusion.

The implicated components in GE90 engines include high-pressure turbine discs, rotor spools, and compressor seals. Such iron inclusion, which the FAA attributes to manufacturing process deficiencies, can compromise material properties, potentially leading to premature fractures and unanticipated failures.

In a response, GE Aerospace reassured that their proposal aligns with existing recommendations made to operators. Emphasizing their commitment to safety, GE stated that the issue poses no flight-safety risk, and they have a grasp on the problem with corrective actions underway.

Earlier, in 2022, the FAA had issued directives indicating that a few GE90s, GEnx, and CFM International Leap turbofans might have components with similar contamination. Later, in the current year, there were suggestions that the number of affected Leaps and GEnx engines could be higher.

Co-owned by Safran Aircraft Engines, GE Aerospace produces the compressors, combustors, and high-pressure turbines for the Leap engines. These are integral components in aircraft such as Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A320neo-family jets. Additionally, GEnx turbofans power Boeing 787s, while GE90s are fitted in Boeing 777s.

The root of the FAA's latest proposal was GE's realization that an increased number of components inside the GE90s used material similar to those in which iron inclusion was previously detected.

While this proposed rule will undergo a 45-day commentary phase before potentially being finalized, if approved, it will mandate airlines to replace certain affected components in GE90s without delay. However, carriers would be granted additional time for replacing other specified components. The FAA emphasizes that failing to address the matter could lead to significant engine and airplane damage.

GE Aerospace has proactively informed airlines about the potential issue.

However, manufacturing challenges with metallic components in turbofans are not unique to GE Aerospace. Pratt & Whitney disclosed in July that around 1,200 of its PW1000G geared turbofans might contain high-pressure turbine discs made using potentially "contaminated" powered metal.