On Saturday, a Boeing 787 runway test with the most recently built aircraft, equipped with GEnx engines, experienced an engine failure, resulting in debris on the runway approach and causing a brush fire. This closed the airport, resulting in the diversion of two inbound commercial flights, as with the main runway at Charleston currently shut down for repaving, the airport is operating with a single runway.
Fortunately, the failure occurred during preflight runway testing and not an actual flight. Nonetheless, the situation was warranted as serious enough for the National Transportation Safety Board to conduct an investigation.
No one was injured in the incident, and it is not expected to delay production of the aircraft or immediately impact the program. The more important question, however, is what caused the incident, and whether it will require modifications to the GEnx engines that are already in service with JAL and installed on a number of aircraft currently in production. It is too early to tell whether this failure will rise to the level of the failure of a Rolls Royce engine on the Airbus A380 that resulted in a significant engine modification program.
- The good news – the problem was discovered on the ground.
- The bad news – another investigation of a potential problem for the 787, with yet unknown consequences.