Warning. Do not read this article if you DON'T have a fear of flying.

There may be a faulty engine part on your next flight

Alarming news from the civil aviation sector yesterday is the discovery of jet engine components, in service right now, which have false safety certification. All the details, such as the broker company who supplied the engine parts, the particular engine in which they’re now fitted and which airlines are affected all seem unimportant when weighed against how you’re going to feel when next you board a flight. Honestly, there is no commercial sector on the planet that treats safety with as uncompromising an attitude U.S. aviation does. When there’s even the slightest of slight problems, they literally ground everything. And they are to be recognized and applauded for that attitude. So this is not about the fact that this event happened. It’s about why, who and where.

Why were AOG Technologies (UK) appointed as suppliers to General Electric (US)? Why did no one check, countercheck and counter-counter check the engine components in question? A jet turbofan engine like the CFMF6 operates at 1,700 degrees centigrade. The CFMF6 is where most of the suspect components are situated. This same engine is the most widely used engine in commercial aviation.

A bolt designated for use in the CFMF6 not tested for airworthiness can break off due to the extreme heat. Then it moves into the pathway of a fan which is turning at 25,000 rpm. That’s a fan which creates enough thrust to lift a 100+ tonne aircraft into the air (and keep it there), completing a revolution more than 400 times a second. Bolt hits said engine, engine explodes and either rips the wing off the aircraft or, the fire caused by the explosion hits a fuel line. The times that neither happen are in the minority. The vast minority.

One bolt

In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up because of a rubber oil ring. In 2009, Air France flight 447 smashed vertically into the Atlantic Ocean because of a defective little tube that measures airspeed.

Nowadays, our default understanding of technology almost always involves AI and other related workings of the age of information. It’s easy to forgot that such an intricate piece of engineering such as a jet engine is a masterpiece of technology. There are up to 50,000 components in a jet turbofan engine. And there is no such thing as a harmless engine component when it’s faulty. Particularly not when you’re nine kilometres high.

So the news about the discovery of suspect parts is good, because it’s being handled by the exactly the right ecosystem – American civil aviation and the Brits, of course.

But the ramifications of this news are not good if you’re flying in any other part of the world. We need world aviation to reassure us that similar scrutineering and response to issues are happening at the same pace.

Right. Now we’ve dealt with the aircraft. In an earlier piece, we covered collision risk. Shall we talk about how many commercial pilots are being treated for depression?

Just kidding. You don’t want to know.

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