Japan Airlines 777 With 32 Passengers To JFK Returns To Tokyo

On the weekend, a Japan Airlines Boeing 777 returned to Tokyo after onboard checks indicated there were issues with one of the engines. The plane landed safely five and a half hours after it originally departed. Luckily, nobody was injured.

Japan Airlines boeing 777
A Japan Airlines Boeing 777 returned to Tokyo Haneda after its GE90-115B engine experienced engine vibrations. Photo: Getty Images

What happened?

The Boeing 777-300, registration JA740J, was operating flight Jl-6 from Tokyo Haneda in Japan to New York’s JFK airport on the 26th December. The plane was over the Pacific Ocean when indicators showed problems with the left-hand engine. According to The Aviation Herald, the issue stemmed from vibrations in the engine itself.

As a precautionary measure, the crew elected to return to Tokyo, landing on runway 34R five a half hours after take-off. The plane seems to still be grounded several days after the incident took place. No one was hurt during the incident, but this is the second engine-related incident on a Japan Airlines Boeing 777 in less than a month.

All 32 passengers onboard were transferred to another Japan Airlines Boeing 777-300, registration JA731J. The replacement aircraft took off three hours after the original plane landed safely. The delay meant travelers arrived in New York almost eight and a half hours later than scheduled.

Japan Airlines, Boeing 777, Engine Failure
This is the second Japan Airlines Boeing 777 to suffer an engine failure in less than a month. Photo: Getty Images

The aircraft that experienced engine issues is, according to Planespotters.net, only 12 and a half years old. The plane joined Japan Airlines in August of 2008. Although the plane is still grounded, it is scheduled to operate flight JL 45 tomorrow from Tokyo Haneda to Paris Charles de Gaulle. At the time of publication, Japan Airlines had not responded to a request for a comment on the incident.

Engine vibration

It is not yet clear exactly what caused the issue in the GE90-115B as the crew was only aware of vibrations. Vibration in aircraft engines can be caused by several things, all of which should be addressed immediately. The most common causes are cracked turbines or fans, broken compressor components, old metal, an imbalance between loose parts, and the wearing down of old parts.

While some of these things will not cause serious engine failure immediately, they will need to be addressed. One of the main issues facing mechanics and pilots is identifying what is causing the vibration. Because the engines have so many moving parts, discovering the cause of the vibrations is difficult and time-consuming. Sometimes, a small issue can cause massive vibrations while a major problem causes very few.

Chinese labourers work at the distribution chain for jet engines as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls visits an Airbus factory in Tianjin
Engines have so many moving parts it can be hard to identify which section is causing a problem. Photo: Getty Images.

Aircraft engines undergo vibration testing to check and monitor vibrations. While most testing is done regularly before a problem presents itself, the grounded Japan Airlines Boeing 777 will undoubtedly be undergoing serious testing to find the issue. After the testing finds the issue, it can be repaired. Just how serious the incident actually was and what caused it may not be known for some time.

Have you ever experienced an incident like this while flying? We’d love to hear from you if you have.