Dutch Authorities Probing Inflight Failure of Another PW4000

 - February 22, 2021, 12:53 PM

Dutch investigators have yet to provide further details on Saturday’s engine failure on a Longtail Aviation Boeing 747-400 cargo plane in which pieces of the airplane’s PW4000-94 turbofan—a smaller version of the PW4000-112 that failed on a United Airlines 777-200 on the same day—rained down on the Dutch town of Meerssen. The Bermuda-registered jet, which had just taken off from Maastricht Aachen Airport (MST) on a flight to New York JFK Airport when the incident occurred, made an emergency landing at Liege, 50 kilometers south of MST in Belgium.

The pieces of metal debris damaged several cars and houses and injured two people, Dutch media reported.

According to officials at Maastricht Airport, air traffic control detected the fire on the Number 1 engine and alerted the flight crew, who switched off the engine in question and declared a Mayday. The pilots subsequently requested vectors for a holding pattern at FL100 to dump fuel and then diverted to Liege, which has a longer runway. Liege Airport’s runway 04R/22L extends 12,106 feet whereas MST’s sole runway stretches only 9,022 feet. 

The 747-400, registration VQ-BWT, is 30 years old and flew for Singapore Airlines, Air India, Martinair, Air Cargo Germany, and Ruby Star Airways before it joined Longtail's fleet in 2020.

In a statement released on Monday, Longtail Aviation stressed that its crewmembers followed the correct procedure to investigate the problem and that it has activated what it calls its emergency response plan in coordination with “all concerned parties.”

“Our flight crew dealt with this situation professionally and in accordance with the correct aviation standards, resulting in a safe and uneventful landing,” said Longtail CEO Martin Amick. “We are now in the process of working closely with the Dutch, Belgian, Bermuda, and UK authorities to understand the cause of this incident.”

Dutch authorities have released the aircraft back to Longtail. The airline has loaded a replacement engine aboard another Longtail Boeing 747 and sent it to Belgium, where a team of technicians on standby will replace the engine. Longtail estimates that the aircraft will return to service this week.

“It is too early to speculate as to what may have been the cause of the engine problem, but we will of course continue to give every assistance to the investigators as they continue their work,” said Amick.

In a statement on Monday, Boeing referred AIN to the Dutch authorities, noting only that it is supporting the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board in its contribution to the investigation.