* Article updated 19/10/2021 07:50 UTC with a statement from Japan Airlines *
On October 15th, a Tokyo-bound Japan Airlines Boeing 777 had to return to Los Angeles after departure following an engine malfunction. The incident occurred as the aircraft was climbing out of the Californian air hub, and resulted in flames being emitted from the jet’s right-hand turbofan. Let’s take a closer look at how the incident unfolded.
The flight in question
Japan Airlines (JAL) flight JL15 is a regularly scheduled service that originates at Los Angeles International (LAX) in California. Data from RadarBox.com shows that it runs almost daily. Indeed, it has operated every day this month (and will continue to do so tomorrow) except, funnily enough, today. Its scheduled departure time is 13:45.
The flight’s destination is Tokyo Haneda (HND). Its arrival there is timed to take place at 17:20 the next day, giving a planned duration of 11 hours and 35 minutes. The flight travels westbound across the Pacific Ocean, crossing the date line in the process.
JAL has exclusively deployed the Boeing 777-300ER on this flight in the last month. The Japanese flag carrier faces strong competition on the route, with four other carriers present. These are American Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines.
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According to data from RadarBox, flight JL15 on Friday, October 15th didn’t get off to the best start, departing almost an hour late at 14:33 local time. However, the flight was about to run into far greater problems. Indeed, The Aviation Herald reports that, while climbing away from runway 25R at LAX, the aircraft experienced a fiery engine malfunction.
Well you don't see this every day. Japan Airlines flight 15, a Boeing 777-300ER, had an engine malfunction on departure from LAX on Friday afternoon. It circled around and landed safely back at LAX about 45 minutes later. #JAL15 #JA740J #JL15 pic.twitter.com/lMggHOnWKR
— Glenn Beltz (@gb0n) October 16, 2021
The striking nature of the incident is evident in the tweet above. With flames being emitted from the 777’s right-hand GE90 turbofan, the crew declared an emergency. Having stopped their climb at 5,000 feet, ATC instructed them to continue to 6,000 feet to begin the fuel dumping process. This ensured that the plane wouldn’t be overweight upon landing.
Circling to the southwest of the city near Santa Catalina Island, the flight eventually dumped enough fuel to be at a suitable landing weight. It touched back down safely on LAX’s runway 25L, with data from FlightRadar24.com showing that it did so at 15:18 local time, after 45 eventful minutes in the air. A safe taxi back to the apron followed.
Regarding the incident, a Japan Airlines spokesperson told Simple Flying:
“The cause of this problem is still under investigation. In order to conduct a detailed inspection of the inside of the engine, We have sent inspectors and technical personnel from Japan to the site. (…) We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and anxiety caused to our passengers. We will investigate the cause of the problem as soon as possible to prevent a recurrence.”
The aircraft involved
The Boeing 777-300ER that experienced the fiery engine malfunction bears the registration JA740J. Data from ch-aviation.com shows that it is 13.16 years old, having joined JAL brand-new in August 2008. It seats 244 passengers in a four-class configuration.
The bulk of these make up the 147-seat, nine-abreast economy class cabin. Offering more legroom, there are also 40 eight-abreast premium economy seats, with a generous 42-inch pitch. When it comes to lie-flat comfort, JA740J has 49 business class flatbeds in a seven-abreast setup. Finally, it also has an exclusive eight-bed four-abreast first class cabin.
What do you make of this incident? Have you ever witnessed such a fiery engine malfunction? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.