MH370 new twists

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March 14, 2014

There have been more dramatic twists in the baffling disappearance of MH370.

Boeing, Rolls Royce and Malaysian Authorities have denied a story in the Wall Street Journal that the plane flew on for four hours after contact was lost.

However in a new development the engine fitted to the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was the subject of a directive from Europe’s aviation safety regulator last month that warned of “fire related” failures if it wasn’t fixed.

As the Chinese government released a series of satellite images of what appeared to be wreckage from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, AirlineRatings.com learned the European Aviation Safety Agency issued an airworthiness directive to airlines on February 4 relating to Rolls Royce Tent 800 engines, the model used on MH370.

It told airlines to install software that would prevent one of the engine’s turbines going into an over speed (too fast) condition and warned of “fire related failure modes.”

“This condition, if not corrected, could lead to uncontained multiple turbine blade failures” or far worse a “turbine disc burst, possibly resulting in damage to, and reduced control of, the aeroplane,” the directive said.

The software fix was supposed to be installed within 14 days of the directive. It is unclear whether the engine on MH370 had been fixed by the time the plane left Kuala Lumpur on Friday night.

The failure would be very similar to that which nearly brought down a Qantas A380 in 2010. Flight QF32, which was flying from London to Sydney with 469 passengers and crew, was crippled minutes after take-off from Singapore when, in a freak event, a 200kg turbine disc in the No. 2 engine shattered.

The explosion showered the wing with shrapnel, disabling 53 mostly critical systems and causing a major fuel leak. Two pieces of the turbine disc narrowly missed the passenger area.

Only the skill of the pilots saved the super jumbo, according to Australia’s crash investigator, and Rolls-Royce paid out $90 million to Qantas as compensation for the grounding of its A380 fleet and damage to its brand.

Reports on Wednesday that Boeing 777s had been the subject of a separate service bulletin last year did not relate to MH370.

Boeing issued service bulletins relating to 777s having cracks underneath the satellite communication antenna adapter on the top of the fuselage.

But MH370 did not have the particular SATCOM antenna adapter and was not impacted by the AD.

Location of the debris is close to the last contact point of the Boeing 777 and is also near where a New Zealand oil rig worker claimed he saw the plane burning at high altitude and descending.

The images were taken at 11am on March 9, the day after MH370 went missing, but were only released on Wednesday.

The images show “three suspected floating objects, according to the China’s State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence.

The large objects measure 13 by 18 meters, 24 by 22 meters and 14 by 19 meters. Boeing’s 777-200ER is 63.7 meters long and its wing span is 60.9 meters.

Coordinates of the wreckage are 105.63 east longitude, 6.7 north latitude.

This is northeast of Kuala Lumpur and south of Vietnam close to where the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea meet.

Sources in Malaysia close to the investigation team said the delay was related to “the Chinese wanting to be certain that the images were of wreckage”.

However no wreckage has been found.

New Zealand oil worker Michael McKay, who is working on a rig off the south-eastern coast of Vietnam, sent an email to his employer, tweeted by ABC New York’s Bob Woodruff, which said: “From when I first saw the burning plane until the flames went out still at high altitude was 10-15 seconds. There was no lateral movement, so it was either coming toward our location, stationary, or going away from our location.”

He said the plane appeared to “be in one piece”. It is understood the Vietnamese searched the area but found nothing.