LAS VEGAS (AP) — Crash investigators plan to remove and disassemble a General Electric engine that caught fire last week on a British Airways aircraft, causing an aborted takeoff from Las Vegas and forcing the emergency evacuation of 170 people, officials said Monday.
Meanwhile, authorities were poring over paperwork and maintenance records for clues about whether the first-ever failure of the workhorse jet engine was a one-of-a-kind event or a sign of a broader problem.
The fact that the Sept. 8 fire didn't prompt authorities to ground aircraft using the GE90-85B engine suggested the problem was being eyed as an anomaly, said John Cox, an aviation safety consultant in Wichita, Kansas.
Officials noted that a Federal Aviation Administration airworthiness directive went into effect in August 2011 after cracks were detected in weld joints of compressor fan spools in similar GE90 engines.
But the engine that failed on the runway in Las Vegas had different parts and a different compressor spool configuration than those cited in the directive, said General Electric Aviation spokesman Rick Kennedy
"It does not apply to this engine," Kennedy said.
Cox said that if the advisory applied to the engine in Las Vegas, the FAA probably would have issued an emergency order to inspect similar engines in use around the world.
GE90 turbofan engines are the world's largest, and have flown millions of hours for various carriers since beginning service in 1995.
Firefighters at McCarran International Airport quickly doused the fire last week, and mostly minor injuries were reported after 157 passengers and 13 crew members used evacuation slides to exit Flight 2276 to London.
The twin-engine Boeing 777 was built in 1998 and registered to British Airways a year later. By the end of 2013, it had flown nearly 77,000 hours, according to the British Civil Aviation Authority. GE90 engines are used in most Boeing 777s.
Fragments of the high-pressure compressor — the heart of the engine — were found on the Las Vegas runway, and the reinforced metal engine case was perforated, the National Transportation Safety Board said.
Experts said that showed evidence of a catastrophic and uncontained failure while the engine was under the highest pressure with the aircraft accelerating for takeoff.
No GE90 engine ever experienced an uncontained failure before, GE spokeswoman Deborah Case said.
The aircraft and engine were being examined by NTSB, Boeing and GE investigators, said NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss in Washington, D.C.
British Airways and the British Civil Aviation Authority were assisting the probe.
The engine will be taken to a GE plant in Evendale, Ohio, Case said.