United jet engine explodes in midair, sending debris across Colorado suburb

Originally published at: United jet engine explodes in midair, sending debris across Colorado suburb | Boing Boing


Phew, I glad that it sounds like everything was okay, aside from some property damage.


Rob ninja’d you, Mark:


I’m guessing compressor blade failure.


I think we know the true cause.


I’m glad to hear a Donnie Darko scenario was avoided…


fucking Boeing.
get it together, damn.


I’m guessing you know more about this than I do. I thereby concur.

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Boeing makes the airframe, but not the engines. According to a story at FlightGlobal, these were Pratt & Whitney PW4000 turbofan engines, and there was a similar incident in December on a JAL 777-200 that had the same type of engines and lost a panel and some fan blades.



Problem goes back a few years.



Plus FAA and a/c makers are way too friendly with each other.


Interesting - that was the GE90 engine (vs. the P&W PW4000 on today’s example). According to the Seattle Times article, it was one of the early models, and was the first uncontained GE90 failure in the 20 years (at that point) it had been in use.

I did a little bit of digging and found that the PW4000 has had a history of failures - in addition to this one and the one in December, there have been failures of some variants as far back as 1994, when a PW4168 failed on an Airbus A310 that was undergoing a test flight with a simulated (!) engine failure.

It sounds like the problems with both of these engine types have been compressor disc failures (as @lava suggested). My understanding is that the energy involved in that engine stage is so great that disc failures are basically considered to not be containable, so this could have turned out much less happily.

(Standard disclaimers apply. This is all speculation on my part, as this isn’t my field, and I’m more than happy to be corrected if I’ve gotten something wrong.)


my rule of thumb is never sit in the rotational plane of the compressor stages of a jet engine. Its like standing next to a guy juggling kitchen knives. He’s probably not going to drop one, but you don’t want to be standing there if he does. Just ask a bird that’s gotten sucked in the inlet. If you can find a piece of him.


just enough to scare myself, probably uselessly, but think about it this way. You know how a car engine works - there’s a piston, compresses the air and fuel, you set it on fire with a spark, and pow - its got the engine spinning. A jet engine is somebody had this idea instead of all these little pows, we make one continuous pow – instead of compressing the air fuel with a piston we’ll put a series of fans all in a line each pushing the air harder and harder and harder and then blow it up out the back. How do we turn all those fans? We’ll put a windmill in that explosion exhaust to turn the fan! So after we get all those butcher knives spinning faster than you can see, how would you like a seat right next to 10 or 12 rows of them… gulp!


Perhaps something in common early on? GE and PW outsource some phase of manufacturing and/or material treatment to the same subcontractor, or acquire raw material from the same supplier, or use the same model of manufacturing/inspection/test equipment? Or perhaps some other process they both just happen to share irrespective of each other? But if it’s only (or mostly) Boeing a/c having these engine problems, then could it be a matter of shoddy engine maintenance or routine inspections missing evidence of possible disc failures?

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Don’t forget: the engines are not built by the aircraft manufacturer: they are leased.


I came here to sing… “all around me are familiar faces…” glad you beat me to it. :slight_smile:

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My kid has played ultimate at that park.

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