Boeing, General Electric and US officials are investigating after the engine on a new 787 Dreamliner spewed metal and started a grass fire during pre-flight testing.

Boeing, General Electric and US officials are investigating after the engine on a new 787 Dreamliner spewed metal and started a grass fire during pre-flight testing. (File photo.) Photo: AFP

Boeing, General Electric and US officials are investigating a malfunction that spewed metal debris from a GE engine on a 787 Dreamliner and caused an airport grass fire in South Carolina.

Material was ejected from the back of the engine during preflight testing, Rick Kennedy, a GE spokesman, said yesterday. Julie O'Donnell, a Boeing spokeswoman, declined to comment, citing the inquiry into the July 28 mishap at the Charleston, South Carolina, airport.

The incident was the second in less than 10 days involving engines from GE and Rolls-Royce on Dreamliners. Japan's All Nippon Airways pulled five 787s with Rolls-Royce engines from service on July 21 after the manufacturer found that some components had a shorter-than-expected service life.

Boeing is "unaware of any operational issue that would present concerns about the continued safe operation of in- service 787s powered by GE engines," according to a statement from the Chicago-based planemaker.

The jet involved in the episode is due to go to Air India and is the first "significant issue" with GE's new GEnx engine, Kennedy said. About 100 of the units are in service and are performing well, he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board and GE are working with Boeing to learn what went wrong. The fire occurred when debris from the plane fell onto the runway and into grass at the Charleston airport, said Becky Beaman, a spokeswoman for the facility. No one was hurt, she said.

Composite materials

Two arriving flights were diverted and a departing Southwest Airlines plane was delayed at the Charleston airport. The facility is served by five airlines, including United Continental, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines.

Boeing's North Charleston factory is one of two assembly sites for the twin-engine 787, along with the company's wide- body plant in Everett, Washington.

The Dreamliner is the world's first jetliner with a fuselage and wings built chiefly from composite materials. All Nippon and Japan Airlines are the only airlines flying the plane, which entered commercial service in late 2011 after more than three years of delays.

Boeing designed the plane to fly long-haul routes while cutting fuel consumption. The 787 has become Boeing's fastest- selling new model ever, with 859 orders through June, according to the planemaker's website.

All Nippon was the first carrier to fly the Dreamliner in commercial service. In September, United Continental expects to start receiving 787s, which will make it the first US airline to operate the jet.

Bloomberg