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Friday, December 9, 2022

INCIDENT: Screwdriver Tip Left In The Engine Results In Failure On Take-Off

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A forgotten screwdriver point left in the Airbus jet engine caused a Jetstar Airways A320 takeoff problem in 2020, according to Australian investigators in a report.

In October 2020, the Jetstar Airways Airbus A320 had to reject the takeoff due to engine power failure at low speed. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) validated the early conclusions of a critical human factor error in a final report released on August 16, 2021.

On takeoff, there were suspicious engine vibrations and a “popping bang.”

Jetstar Airways Airbus A320-232 aircraft, registered as VH-VFF, was scheduled to fly a regular trip between Brisbane (BNE) and Cairns (CNS), Queensland, Australia, on October 23, 2020. On board, there were 165 passengers and six crew members.

The first officer taxied the aircraft for takeoff on the dedicated runway 01L shortly after the push-back. When the flight crew gained permission to take off, they lined up the plane and selected a specific engine thrust level, which was calculated based on the weight, flap settings, and available runway length.

However, as soon as both engines reached the required power, pilots noted an unusual vibration, which was followed by a “popping noise” with an increasing volume. Meanwhile, the plane strayed to the right of the runway centerline.

To bring the diverted aircraft to a stop, the first officer put the left-hand rudder pedal all the way down, but it didn’t work, so the captain selected reverse thrust and the jet slowed to 30 knots.

When the thrust levels were reduced to idle, the strange vibration and sound stopped.

Meanwhile, the Electronic Centralised Aircraft Monitoring (ECAM) system, which monitors and displays information about engine and aircraft system malfunctions, displayed two error messages from engine No.2, informing the flight crew about “STALL” and “EGT [Exhaust Gas Temperature, -ed.] LIMIT EXCEEDANCE.”

Following the alarm, the captain informed the cabin crew of the issue and advised them to prepare for departure. Meanwhile, passengers alerted the cabin crew to flames coming from the right engine. However, because neither the airport rescue nor firefighting services noticed any evident anomalies with the aircraft, the captain taxied the plane to the airport gate and turned off both engines.

A human factor leads to significant mechanical damage

Engineers investigated the plane after all 165 people left and discovered little balls of metallic debris in the tailpipe of the right-hand engine. According to the report, because the damage exceeded the limitations of the maintenance handbook, the right-hand jet engine was removed and sent for a teardown inspection, where engineers discovered a screwdriver tip in the high-pressure compressor (HPC) combustion section, which caused the HPC damage. Apart from the HPC damage, some of the rotor blades and stators had also been slightly damaged.

A screwdriver tip and little metallic particles were discovered between the combustion liner and engine case. According to the study, the screwdriver tip was burned and corroded “due to heat and mechanical damage.” Many engine components in the HPC matched the shape of the screwdriver, indicating that it had been in the engine for more than 100 flights.

The ATSB discovered that the tool bit was left in the engine during routine maintenance when the engine was removed to oil the LPC Bleed Valve Mechanism.

“The ATSB concluded that the tool bit had been left in the engine after maintenance, and when the engine was running, it entered the high-pressure compressor, leaving dents and nicks in numerous rotor blades and stator vanes,” ATSB Director Transport Safety Stuart Macleod was quoted as saying in the report.

Jetstar Airways’ response to the situation

According to the ATSB, tool control is a critical component of aircraft maintenance processes that ensures no object damage occurs. Jetstar Airways did a risk assessment and issued a safety advisory to its maintenance engineers, emphasizing the significance of properly accounting for all tooling.

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