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Home > Air Crash > Why do they still allow the Boeing 777 to fly?
Why do they still allow the Boeing 777 to fly?
Aviation - Air Crash
Tuesday, 02 December 2008 14:58

Hi Captain Lim, 

Love the site!  I am heading off to LHR from BOS next month on an American Airlines B777 with RR engines. 

It bothers me a bit that from what I have read, there is no definitive answer to as to why the BA38 flight lost power. How do they allow the 777 to fly knowing there "might" be an unknown issue?  I love the plane but this has really bothered me. 

I have read the new AW directives but they do not really show a cause… just some new preventative measures. 

Thanks for any answer. 

Nathan 

Hi Nathan, 

Even though the final report has not been published, the interim one seems to basically indicate that there was nothing wrong with the aircraft. The pilots are blameless. The airline made no mistakes. The aircraft complies with all specifications.   The crew cannot be blamed as they seem to have done nothing unusual. It also appears that Boeing and Rolls Royce cannot be found to be blamed.

So there is really a freak set of conditions that cannot be explained very clearly.  

However, the interim conclusion of the January 17, 2008 crash landing of the British Airways Boeing 777 at London Heathrow points basically to ice restricting the flow of fuel to the engines at a vital moment as the jet came in to land after a flight from Beijing through particularly cold air high above Siberia in mid-winter.  

Three safety recommendations were made aiming at stopping a repeat of the unprecedented ice problem. Boeing has recommended that, for long-haul flights, pilots must change altitude occasionally and to run the engines more strongly at times. This is to stop any ice buildup in the fuel system.   

The Safety (AAIB) Report says that the ice “is likely to have formed from water that occurred naturally in the fuel whilst the aircraft operated for a long period, with low fuel flows, in an unusually cold environment,”  

Despite many reports claiming that the engines had stopped and others suggesting the fuel had frozen, neither really had happened. What happened was that the engines did not develop increased power as needed on landing because the fuel feed system was partially blocked by frozen water ice.  

So we do know that partial ice buildup in the fuel system was the main culprit in this accident. Hence, the Boeing 777s are allowed to fly (in fact they were never grounded) and crews have been given guidelines to follow in the air to prevent future freak accidents.

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