WASHINGTON — Boeing has warned airlines there is a risk of engine-icing problems on new 747-8 and 787 models with a specific General Electric engine and urged the carriers to avoid flying near thunderstorms that might contain ice crystals.
Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said Saturday that Boeing issued the advisory after ice-crystal formation in some instances diminished engine performance. Airlines with planes affected include United Airlines, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific Airways and Air India.
“To reduce chances of ice-crystal conditions, Boeing recommends that operators fly at least 50 nautical miles from thunderstorms that may contain ice crystals,” Boeing said in its statement.
The advisory covers Boeing planes with General Electric’s GEnx engine. In its statement, Boeing said GE is “working diligently” to deal with the issue and corrective changes “will be introduced into the fleet as soon as they are available.”
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Boeing did not specify how many planes were affected.
There have been six cases since April involving five 747-8s and one 787 Dreamliner with GEnx engines in which the aircraft temporarily lost thrust in high-altitude icing conditions, according to an emailed statement from GE. All aircraft landed safely, GE said.
Because of the advisory, Japan Airlines, the world’s second-largest Dreamliner operator, said it decided to replace its Dreamliners on flights between Tokyo and Delhi with 777s starting Sunday and will switch to 767s on its Tokyo-Singapore route. The airline also dropped plans to use 787s on its Tokyo-Sydney route.
Explaining the decisions, Yuichi Kitada, a general manager in JAL’s engineering department, said: “There may be cases where we wouldn’t be able to go all the way round the cloud formation and we’d have to turn back.”
ANA Holdings, the world’s biggest operator of 787s, uses Rolls-Royce engines on its Dreamliners and hasn’t received any notification to avoid certain weather conditions, a spokeswoman said.
It’s the latest problem to confront the 787. Earlier this year, the 787 was grounded after two planes experienced smoldering batteries. Flights resumed after Boeing redesigned the battery system.
Compiled from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News