Engine casing of the British Airways aircraft that caught fire during take-off from Las Vegas airport this week was found to have multiple breaches, suggesting a fatigue crack may have been the cause of the accident.
The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), investigating the incident, in which 27 people were mildly injured, said parts of the engine's high pressure compressor component had been found on the runway.
The engine was the GE90-85B type manufactured by General Electric. The engine, as well as the fuselage and a wing of the Beoing 777-200, were damaged during the incident, which started as the plane was accelerating on the runway, travelling between 40 and 100 mph.
"Initial examination of the left engine revealed multiple breaches of the engine case in the area around the high pressure compressor,” the investigators said in a statement.
"Examination of the material recovered from runway found several pieces of the high pressure compressor spool (approximately 7-8in in length)."
According to British materials expert Colin Brown, the high pressure compressor spool likely suffered a fatigue crack.
If this theory is confirmed, aircraft with similar engines may need to be grounded for inspections.
According to CNN, the incident was further exacerbated by the failure of the plane’s fire suppression equipment to extinguish the blaze, even though the system deployed as designed.
Investigators are considering whether the equipment worked properly, or whether the fire spread due to a ruptured fuel line, the report added.
The plane, carrying 157 passengers and 10 crew members was just setting out for a ten-hour journey from Las Vegas to London’s Gatwick airport.
The NTSB will analyse data from the aircraft’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders to look for further clues. "The powerplants and airworthiness groups will continue documenting the airplane and engine over the next several days. It is anticipated that once the tooling is in place, the left engine will be removed and shipped to a facility to conduct a full teardown."
The captain of the flight, named as 63-years old Chris Henkey, from Reading, Berkshire, was on his penultimate flight before retirement after 42 years in aviation.