On July 15, an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 suffered an engine failure while in the air. The plane was en-route from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport(ASU) in Texas. Aircraft registration number N569AS was performing flight number AS-1146 when descending into Austin the crew reported that the left (CFM56) engine had failed.
The flight deck immediately completed a checklist related to the engine failure and informed Austin Air Traffic Control that they were attempting to start the engine. The crew members were unable to restart the engine. So they reported that they had lost engine number one but would continue their approach and land on runway 17R.
The aircraft was inactive for six days
According to The Aviation Herald, the aircraft remained on the ground for four days until the engine was replaced and, the plane was given the “green light” to return to service. Before the Texas incident, the aircraft involved in the event had last flown on July 9, performing a transcontinental flight between New York’s JFK and Seattle Tacoma.
After this flight, the aircraft remained on the ground for six days and four hours before the engine failure incident. In associated news, Safety regulators issued an emergency order directing airlines to inspect and, if need be, change a critical engine part on Boeing 737 jets engines. This comes after reports that the same thing happened to four other Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
Valves are getting stuck in the open position
In an FAA directive, airlines have been told that they must inspect Boeing 737-800 jets engines that have been parked for seven days or more and any other aircraft that have fewer than 11 flights since being returned to service. The concern is that individual engine valves can become stuck in the open position after periods of inaction.
The worry here is that corrosion of the valves on both engines could lead to a complete loss of power, with the pilots unable to start either engine. Should this situation occur, the pilots of the aircraft would be forced to divert to the nearest airport. Alternatively, they would perform an emergency landing where they saw fit. This current situation is especially relevant as planes grounded by the COVID-19 pandemic start to return to service.
Before COVID-19 planes were busy
Before the coronavirus, most airlines flew their planes several times a day. Once the severity of the virus had been identified, airlines worldwide began canceling flights and grounding aircraft. Some of these aircraft may now have been inactive for more than three months. This makes us think that proper maintenance checks need to be done before bringing them back into service.
The emergency order applies solely to the Boeing 737-800 NG and classic versions of Boeing’s popular short-haul plane. Somewhat surprisingly, the 737 MAX is not included in the advisory despite the aircraft being grounded since the spring of 2019 following two deadly crashes that caused 346 fatalities.
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