General Electric said Monday it is close to a solution for engines that are losing power for a few seconds after ingesting ice chunks as big as a half gallon.
The problem came to light over the weekend after Japan Airlines said it will stop using its new Boeing 787s on some routes.
The problem has surfaced on about 400 GE engines used on some 787s and all Boeing 747-8s.
GE said it knows of six incidents since April where those engines lost thrust because of icing.
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The problem is that in some conditions, the engines take in ice crystals, which thaw and refreeze. Those chunks can grow to 2 to 4 pounds and eventually come loose and are sucked into the engine’s core.
GE said the engines lost power for around five seconds each time.
“If you were in the plane you wouldn’t even notice it,” GE spokesman Rick Kennedy said.
The plane’s owners noticed.
The ice chunks damaged at least one engine on a 747-8 freighter, Kennedy said, but all quickly regained power and the planes were able to land at their planned airport.
Boeing has told airlines not to fly the planes within 50 nautical miles of the kinds of storms that can lead to the ice chunks.
On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration said it will issue a directive later this week to make sure pilots avoid the conditions as well.
GE said it has changed the software that runs the engines. It would detect the conditions that produce the icing and open a special door to send the ice chunk out through an outer part of the engine instead of its core.
The company said it is “highly confident” the fix will work. The software is being tested now and, if approved by regulators, should be installed on most affected planes by the end of the year.
The FAA said 14 U.S. planes are affected — seven 787s owned by United Continental Holdings and seven 747-8s operated by freight haulers.
GE said the software fix doesn’t require removal of the engine.
“We regret the business disruption this will cause for our customer and remain ready to provide whatever assistance we can to Japan Airlines,” Boeing said in a written statement Monday.
S. Carolina bonds to aid Boeing
South Carolina will sell $85 million in debt this week to help Boeing expand its facilities there.
Proceeds from the general-obligation bonds, part of a $146 million issuance, will help cover land costs for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner plant. The world’s largest aircraft maker plans to invest $1 billion over the next eight years to increase capacity, purchase 320 acres and add an information-technology center.
South Carolina is among states vying for the 777X. Members of the Machinist union in Washington rejected a contract that would have put the work in Everett.
“Boeing’s presence here can serve to spur the growth of the aerospace sector in the state, which already has more than 200 aerospace-related companies,” Bobby Hitt, the South Carolina secretary of commerce, said in an emailed statement.
— Bloomberg News