The Supply Chain Matters blog provides a sideline posting relative to our latest update on the ongoing Boeing 737 MAX global aircraft grounding crisis, specifically an opportunity for the major engine supplier for this aircraft to address aircraft design and operating needs.
In late March, a grounded Southwest Airlines 787 MAX 8 aircraft with no passengers on-board was being flown from Orlando Florida to Victorville California location for temporary storage. About 10 minutes after takeoff, the aircraft number two engine experienced what is described as a contained failure. The pilot and co-pilot returned to Orlando and landed safely, and the incident garnered a lot of added media visibility.
This week, a published report by Aviation Week indicates that supplier CFM International is currently monitoring its new LEAP engine fleet for signs of an issue that is believed to be tied to the Southwest engine failure. (Subscription sign-up required or complimentary preview )
The engine manufacturer has identified a subset of LEAP-1A and 1B engines that power both the 737 MAX and the Airbus A320 neo aircraft for carbon build-up on the fuel nozzles that have led to combustion chamber hot spots within the engine’s high temperature turbine.
The report indicates that within hours of the Southwest incident, CFM and General Electric engineers were able to analyze that engine’s detailed operating data and compare that to data of all other operating LEAP engines. Following the analysis, thresholds for inspections of engine fuel nozzles were adjusted for more frequent checks of nozzles for a condition termed coking. A GE spokesperson indicated to Aviation Week that the analysis of the Southwest engine indicated that monitoring analytics and maintenance processes needed to be adjusted for the engines. Inspections have identified predominate issues on a reported one percent of the LEAP 1B engines found on the MAX.
A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines indicated to the publication that the airline is taking advantage of the groundings to complete other maintenance work needs, including those items found during ongoing inspections. The publication cites a knowledgeable source as indicating that Southwest removed one additional engine based on inspection findings. Other airlines such as American, are also conducting additional LEAP 1B inspections and reported no findings.
Supply Chain Matters highlights this one CFM related example as a glass-half-full example that the current MAX grounding crisis provides.
Any known operating issues among key aircraft components can be further analyzed and prescribed fixes can be addressed during the lull period. It behooves all suppliers to ensure that when the MAX returns to service, no other product design or operational performance visible setbacks occur.
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