Boeing 747-436, G-BNLG, 20 February 2005

Boeing 747-436, G-BNLG


Immediately after the aircraft took off on a night flight from Los Angeles to London, a banging sound was heard and passengers and ATC reported seeing flames from the No 2 engine. The symptoms and resultant turbine over-temperature were consistent with an engine surge; the crew completed the appropriate checklist, which led to the engine being shut down. After assessing the situation, and in accordance with approved policy, the commander decided to continue the flight as planned rather than jettison fuel and return to Los Angeles. Having reached the east coast of the USA with no indications of further abnormality and with adequate predicted arrival fuel, the crew decided to continue to the UK. The winds and available flight levels were subsequently less favourable than anticipated and, nearing the UK, the crew decided to divert to Manchester in order to maintain the required arrival fuel reserve. In the latter stages of the flight the crew encountered difficulties in balancing the fuel quantities in the four main tanks, became concerned that the contents of one tank might be unusable and declared an emergency in accordance with the operator’s procedures. The aircraft landed with low contents in both outboard main tanks, although the total fuel quantity was in excess of the planned reserve. The fuel system, in the configuration selected, should have continued to feed the operating engines until all tanks emptied. The investigation determined that the engine surge had been due to excessive wear to the high-pressure compressor casing and, with the standard of fuel controller software installed, this resulted in turbine over-temperature damage. There was no evidence of fuel system malfunction and it was possible to maintain fuel tank quantities in balance by the selective use of fuel pumps. The evidence suggested that the operator should ensure that flight crews are provided with relevant instruction on 3-engined fuel handling during initial and recurrent training, and that the regulators should review the policy on flight continuation for public transport aircraft operations, following an in-flight shutdown of an engine, in order to provide greater clarity to the operators. Eight recommendations are made, 6 of which relate to flight data recorders.

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Published 10 December 2014