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Engine cowling malfunction involving Airbus in Sydney in 2017 led to increased inspections

Christian Fernsby |
On 11 June 2017, an Airbus A330-200 aircraft, registered B-6099 and operated by China Eastern Airlines, departed Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport Australia on a scheduled passenger service to Shanghai, People’s Republic of China.

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Topics: AIRBUS    SYDNEY   

During take-off, one of the three structural acoustic panels of the aircraft’s left engine inlet cowling, and the inboard outer skin failed. After reducing their fuel load and responding to the incident, the aircraft returned to Sydney about 42 minutes after departing.

Debris from the left engine inlet cowling was strewn along the runway and the aircraft’s flight path.

There was limited physical evidence available, as the panel and other cowling debris was ingested into the engine. Therefore, despite extensive testing conducted by the engine and cowling manufacturers, the reason for the failure could not be conclusively determined.

However, it was considered that the most likely reason for the failure was a localised disbond between the acoustic panel facing sheet and the honeycomb core.

This was the fourth inlet cowling failure event internationally, where an acoustic panel manufactured by Bombardier Aerospace on behalf of Rolls-Royce, fitted to an Airbus A330 aircraft with Trent 700 engines, had failed and was ingested into the engine.

As a result of this incident, Rolls-Royce amended service bulletin RB 211-71-AG419 R2 (now R3), which related to the inspection of the inlet acoustic panels.

This service bulletin included increasing the initial and follow-on inspections by reducing the interval from 24 to 12 months (thereby increasing the frequency of inspections), the introduction of revised damage limits, and referencing a newly introduced training video that demonstrated how to conduct a ‘tap test’ to identify acoustic panel damage, including delamination.

In addition, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued Airworthiness Directive (AD) 2019-0042.

The operator, China Eastern Airlines, has proactively inspected their entire fleet of Rolls-Royce Trent 700 powered Airbus A330 aircraft and also reduced their inspection intervals from 24 to 12 months, thereby increasing the frequency of inspections.

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