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BA Fire Report Suggests Engine Casing Breach

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An initial report on a British Airways plane which caught fire at a Las Vegas airport suggests engine parts flew out and landed on the runway.

The US’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the casing around a key component of the engine had been found to have “multiple” breaches.

The casing should contain any damage but spool parts, about 7-8in in length, were found on the runway.

The fire forced the evacuation of 170 people on board on emergency slides.

The plane’s pilot Chris Henkey, from Reading, has said he is “unlikely” to fly a scheduled trip to Barbados, after which he is due to retire.

The plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders are now being examined by the NTSB, and the left engine is due to be shipped to experts to uncover what caused the fire.

The part that appears to have broken, the high pressure compressor spool, is a circular disc that spins at very high speed.

It’s designed to never break, because if it does the tough outer casing of the engine can’t contain the bits of metal that will come flying out, potentially damaging the rest of the aircraft, including the fuel tanks and the hydraulic systems and wires so critical for controlling the aircraft.

Investigators need to find out how new the part was, when it was last checked, and whether it broke because something hit it, maybe a bird, or whether it was just faulty.

Dr Colin Brown from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has told me that, although you can’t rule out a bird strike at this early stage, it’s “most likely” to be from a “fatigue crack”.

The critical question now, is this a one-off or is it a problem that could arise in similar engines?

Flight 2276 was at McCarran International Airport, bound for London’s Gatwick airport, with 157 passengers and 13 crew members on board.

The left GE90-85B engine of the Boeing 777-200 caught fire before take-off, and at least 14 people were taken to hospital with minor injuries.

The NTSB report said: “Initial examination of the left engine revealed multiple breaches of the engine case in the area around the high pressure compressor.

“Examination of the material recovered from the runway found several pieces of the high pressure compressor spool (approximately 7-8in in length).”

Mr Henkey told NBC he had been due to fly to Barbados on Saturday and return the following Tuesday, “and that would be it”, as he was due to retire.

But he reportedly added: “It’s safe to say I’m finished flying.”