14 Mar 2009

European air authority says Boeing 777s safe to fly

8:03 am on 14 March 2009

Europe's air safety authority says Boeing's 777 passenger jet is safe to fly, despite concerns from a US transport authority that versions with Rolls-Royce engines could lose power in freezing weather.

The fault is believed to have caused the crash of BA Boeing 777 at London's Heathrow in January last year, seriously injuring one passenger.

America's National Transportation Safety Board has ordered an urgent redesign to part of the engines.

European Aviation Safety Agency spokesman Daniel Holtgen said if there was any risk the planes would be grounded.

British Airways is to continue to fly its 15 Rolls-Royce-equipped Boeing 777 aircraft.

A spokeswoman said the airline had adopted mandatory changes to flying procedures designed to prevent a repeat of the fuel blockage believed to have caused the BA Boeing 777 crash

The National Transportation Safety Board said on Wednesday a Delta Air Lines Boeing 777 suffered a similar loss of engine power or "rollback" while flying between Shanghai and Atlanta in November.

The pilot followed a standard procedure to recover engine power and landed the jet safely.

The board ordered a redesign of the Rolls-Royce engine's fuel/oil heat exchanger as a permanent way of stopping ice forming and restricting fuel flow.

It said the mandatory flying procedures ordered after the Heathrow and Delta incidents did reduce the risk of ice blocking the fuel supply, but added complexity to flight crew operations and could cause other hazards as they required the pilot to bring the plane lower.

Rolls-Royce is working on the component change but it may not be ready for installation for another 12 months, the NTSB said.

The BBC reports there are currently 220 Boeing 777s, with Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines, in operation. The planes are used by 11 airlines and British Airways owns 15.