The National Transportation Safety Board on Friday recommended major inspections of huge jet engines and small propellers in separate actions that could temporarily ground hundreds of airplanes in the next few weeks.
The recommendations affect engines on an estimated 1,200 of the largest wide-body jets worldwide and propellers on at least 400 domestic commuter airliners. Both sets of recommendations stem from recent incidents where the structural integrity of parts critical to safe flight has been called into question.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday night ordered some inspections that would temporarily ground a few commuter planes, but delayed action on many other commuter planes and the jumbo jetliners until specialists have had a chance for more study of the recommendations.
In one set, the board urged rapid high-technology inspections for cracks in jet engines made by the General Electric Co. that are now in service on many Airbus Industrie A-300s and A-320s, Boeing 747s and 767s, McDonnell Douglas DC-10s and MD-11s. These aircraft are commonly used on transoceanic or transcontinental flights. Many aircraft of these types use engines from other manufacturers.
The other recommendation--to check for cracks in hundreds of propeller blades on some commuter airliners--stems directly from the crash near Atlanta on Monday of an Atlantic Southeast commuter plane. The crash occurred after one blade of a four-bladed propeller separated from the propeller's hub. Five people were killed.
Travel on some commuter airlines could be disrupted this weekend as planes are removed from service for propeller inspections or replacement of suspect propeller blades. It is not clear how many planes eventually will be affected.
The model 14-RF and 14-SF propeller blades, manufactured by Hamilton Standard Corp., are used on hundreds of commuter planes. Among them are the DeHavilland DASH-8, the ATR-42 and 72, the ATP, the SAAB-340B and the Embraer 120, the Brazilian-made plane that crashed Monday.
The safety board recommended propeller inspections "before further flight" for all Hamilton Standard-equipped aircraft that have made more than 1,250 flights since their last inspection with high-tech ultrasonic equipment.
That would have the effect of grounding about 400 airplanes, FAA Deputy Administrator Linda Hall Daschle said Friday night.
Part of the failed propeller on the plane in the Georgia crash has not been found, but the remaining portion shows a crack much like a paper clip that is bent back and forth many times, the NTSB said.