A Closer Look at the Dynamic Airways Engine Fire in Fort Lauderdale

The JT9D engine (Photo provided by Eric Salard [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

On October 29th, Dynamic Airways flight 405 suffered an engine fire while taxiing at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport. The Boeing 767-200, with 101 passengers and crew on board, was preparing for a 12:30 p.m. ET takeoff to Caracas, Venezuela, when pilots on another airplane reported to air traffic control that they were seeing fuel leaking from its left engine. There were 88 adults, 2 children and 11 crew on the plane, officials reported. The fire caused 42 flights to be cancelled and delayed 187 others at FLL.

Dynamic Airways, founded in 2010 and headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina, issued a statement after the incident that flights were continuing as scheduled. The airplane, seen departing a few days ago on the same route, is almost 30 years old and was first used in 1986 by Kuwait Airways. It has been owned by several other airlines like Birgenair and Air Gabon.

The narrowest wide-body aircraft in service, the Boeing 767 started life as an advanced technology mid-to-large size airliner in the late 1970s. They are now the oldest wide-bodies in the U.S. passenger airline fleet. Launch customer United flew the first aircraft in 1982, making history by operating one of the first two-engine aircraft on a trans-oceanic route.

Unlike in past incident where British Airways cabin crew ignored fuel leak warnings, in this case, the pilot immediately signaled his intention to taxi back to the gate upon receiving the news of the fuel leak. But seconds later, the Pratt & Whitney JT9D engine caught fire. Since airlines often swap engines between aircraft based on requirements of range and payload, it is difficult to estimate how old the engine actually was. If this engine, which has been known for having a very unique operating noise and performance, was as old as the aircraft, this could result in lengthy discussions which can only be classified as speculative.

There are many questions that should be asked about the evacuation process that left multiple passengers injured. Furthermore, a thorough probe into the source of the fire is required, which might help determine the reason behind such a high number of Boeing 767 engine fires in modern aviation. This event follows a long list of historical incidents that involve the Boeing 767 and engine fire, which include three Delta Airlines flights in 2014 and 2015 (Registrations: N14DA, N139DL and N199DN), American Airlines (Registration: N395AN) in August 2015 and Air Canada (Registration: C-GHLA) in August 2014 to name a few.

The common denominator in most of the above occurrences was, in fact, the Pratt & Whitney JT9D engine. The JT9D engine, which entered into service in 1970, opened a new era in commercial aviation with its high-bypass-ratio engine to power wide-bodied aircraft. Examination of previous incidents involving the Boeing 767 and the P&W engine reveal some serious problems that have resulted in various incidents. Since most of these Boeing 767 engine failure events have occurred in the past decade, one could argue that they could be caused by aircraft and engine aging.

Ashwin Jadhav
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Ashwin Jadhav

Ashwin is an aerospace engineer by profession and probably the only person that picked commercial aviation over being a rocket scientist. His expertise include Airline Strategy, Flight Operations, and Air Traffic Management.

Ashwin currently works in the aviation industry in the Flight Operations domain. He has not only gained a lot of experience from various airlines globally, but has also saved them a few dollars through trajectory optimization, tweaking their network, fleet and schedule strategies, implementation of best practices, etc.

He speaks English, Russian, French and 3 Indian languages. In his free time, he is a Canadian national level soccer coach and a delirious poker player. His dream is to one day own and operate his own airline.
Ashwin Jadhav
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