The Bergen Record
"DC-10 spews parts at Newark "
Friday, September 8, 2000
By DANIEL SFORZA
For the second time in five months, Continental Airlines Flight 60 had severe engine trouble during an aborted takeoff Tuesday from Newark International Airport, causing parts to shoot from the rear of an engine onto the runway and forcing the passengers to exit on the tarmac.
No one was injured in the latest incident involving one of Continental's DC-10 aircraft, airline officials said Thursday.
On April 25, Flight 60 suffered what is known as "uncontained engine failure," meaning that parts and fragments burst through the engine casing. That flight took off, but landed at Newark just 34 minutes later with two of its three engines failing, blown tires, and ruptured hydraulic lines.
Although both incidents occurred on flights to Brussels, Belgium, different planes were involved.
"The anomalies you are talking about with the two engines on Flight 60 takeoffs are atypical, but they are not unheard of," said Continental spokesman Dave Messing. "These types of failures can occur periodically. They were handled professionally in each case."
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating both incidents.
The engine failure occurred just a few days after another member of Continental's McDonnell Douglas DC-10 fleet came under scrutiny, this time from the international community.
Last Saturday, French and American officials inspected a Continental DC-10 in Houston that may have shed a metal part authorities believe set off a chain of events that brought down an Air France Concorde minutes into its doomed flight in July that killed 113 people.
Continental officials are cooperating with the Concorde investigation, but stopped short of confirming that the metal part was from one of the airline's DC-10s.
On Thursday, Messing said the airline has confidence in its DC-10 fleet, which averages 20 years old. Overall, Continental has one of the youngest fleets in the sky, with the average plane 8.4 years old in 1999.
"We believe our DC-10 fleet is serving our customers safely," Messing said, adding that Continental's entire DC-10 fleet will be replaced with Boeing 767s within two years.
The most recent incident at Newark International Airport occurred at 7:19 p.m. Tuesday as Flight 60 was taking off on runway 4L.
Sparks and flying debris were seen coming from the plane's rear engine, said Jim Peters, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman for the Eastern Region.
The fire service responded and found turbine blades and metal debris littered on the runway. The aircraft, with 237 on board, was towed from the runway, Peters said. Passengers then deplaned onto the tarmac, where a bus took them to the terminal, Continental officials said.
The engine has been removed from the plane and will be taken apart to determine the cause of the failure. A new engine will be installed on the DC-10, and the plane will return to service shortly, Messing said.
In April, the damage from the failed engine was much more severe.
As the left wing engine broke apart, pieces tore through the engine casing, shooting at a high speed into the landing gear, puncturing two tires and slicing through hydraulic lines.
Other pieces bounced onto the runway ahead of the plane and were sucked into the right engine, crippling it. At that point, only the rear engine located on the tail was fully functioning, even though it also was damaged.
The plane, with 231 on board, made an emergency landing at Newark after dumping 90,000 pounds of fuel. No one was injured.
William D. Waldock, a professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., said engine failures are much more dangerous when ejected parts pierce the skin of the plane rather than shoot onto the runway, as they did Tuesday.
"If it just spins out the back end, it is technically not as severe a problem," said Waldock. "It's less severe than when parts go through the sidewalls."
Waldock said that following the crash of a United Airlines Flight on July 19, 1989, that killed 110 people -- caused by an uncontained engine failure -- improvements were made to the DC-10 to prevent engine parts from being ejected through the casing and into the body of the plane. Instead, the system is designed to eject parts away from the plane, Waldock said.
"It sounds like in this case, the system worked like it was supposed to -- as long as you get someone out on the runway and picking up the parts," Waldock said of Tuesday's Flight 60. "With an engine failure like that, you know what happened and someone is out picking up the runway -- particularly in the aftermath of Concorde."
Continental entered the scope of the Concorde investigation after a 17-inch piece of metal, thought to have fallen from a Continental DC-10 that took off before the Concorde, was found on the runway.
Investigators believe that piece of metal may have shredded a tire, sending debris into the Concorde's fuel tanks and igniting the fatal fire.
The jet went down 77 seconds later into a small hotel in the Paris suburb of Gonesse, killing all 109 aboard and four on the ground. The accident was the first fatal crash of a Concorde since it went into service 26 years ago.
Staff Writer Doug Most contributed to this article. Staff Writer Daniel Sforza's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org