Air France Boeing 777 Suffers Engine Failure During Atlanta Departure

An Air France Boeing 777 had to make an emergency landing at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport on June 23rd, as it lost the use of its left-side engine just minutes after departure.

Air France 777
Air France engine fails 15 minutes after takeoff. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Air France flight AF-681 was scheduled to depart Atlanta Hartsfield for Paris Charles de Gaulle at 4.35pm EST Sunday afternoon. However, the flight was delayed for an hour and 12 minutes due to severe weather with lightning and hailstorms, which caused the airport to shut down for approximately an hour (TOTH to AJ for that info).

The Boeing 777-300 wide-body jet with 330 passengers and crew on-board was given clearance to take-off using runway 27R for the non-stop 8hr 25min hop across the Atlantic Ocean.

When did the engine fail?

Just 15 minutes into the flight, as the aircraft was still climbing, the captain declared a Mayday. He told the tower that he had suffered a complete failure to the aircraft’s left engine, a GE90 according to the Aviation Herald.

Air France GE90 engine fails: Photo: Air France

Now flying on just one engine, the pilot levelled the plane at 3,000 feet and requested permission to make a left turn and return to the airport, landing on the same runway he had just taken off from. Once it was determined that runway 27R was clear of debris, permission was given for the captain to make what they call a “hard landing“, as the pilot had no time to dump fuel.

Fire trucks and emergency vehicles were in place waiting for the plane to land

Fire trucks and emergency vehicles were scrambled to meet the incoming disabled aircraft. Thankfully, they were not needed as the pilot did a textbook landing and even managed to taxi back to the gate.

Air France Boeing 777 Suffers Engine Failure During Atlanta Departure
Emergency vehicles were waiting for AF-681 to land.Photo: Air France

According to eturbonews, a passenger aboard American Airlines flight AA358 that was taking off at the same time as the Air France plane on an adjacent runway said he saw the engine on the Air France jet catch fire.

“I saw fire and smoke shoot from the left engine on their climb — the plane, then levelled off and began to appear to lose altitude. I took a photo of the aircraft shortly before I saw the fire and then I began to film the aircraft as long as I could.”

Eturbonews also printed a statement from Air France about the incident which read,

“Air France confirms that the crew of flight AF681, operating between Atlanta and Paris-Charles de Gaulle, made the decision to return to Atlanta shortly after take-off due to a technical problem. This decision was made in accordance with the manufacturer’s procedures, company instructions, and the precautionary principle.”

Why would the engine fail?

Built especially for Boeing’s 777, the GE90 first entered service with British Airways in 1995. While generally trouble free, there have been the occasional instances of engine failure, similar to what happened to Air France AF-681.

In total, since the introduction of the engine, there have been four other incidents of a 777 engine failing during take-off. That doesn’t include the most recent Air France incident.

The previous incidents were put down to transfer gearbox assemblies (TGBs) which resulted in in-flight shutdowns. An investigation later revealed that the failures were caused by TGB radial gear cracking and separation.

Were you on board Air France’s stricken 777? Let us know in the comments.