GE Aviation spokesman: Durham engine plant not affected by groundings

Jan. 18, 2013 @ 11:10 PM

A spokesman for GE Aviation said the battery-related incidents that led to the groundings of Boeing 787 Dreamliners did not involve the aircraft engines.

A GE Aviation plant in Durham handles the assembly of the hot section of GEnx engines. The GEnx-1B is one of two engines that can power the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

About a third of the approximately 350 employees at the Durham plant are working on the GEnx engine, Kennedy said in an email Thursday.

The plant handles assembly of the GEnx except for the large front fan, which is attached at an Ohio facility, he also said.

Kennedy said “there has been no GEnx engine or GE involvement with the lithium battery situation that led to the 787 grounding.”

“The 787 aircraft is sold out for the next four years, so the current issue is not impacting engine sales, and GEnx engine production activities continue at the same rate,” he also said.

The battery-related incidents that led to the grounding of Boeing 787 Dreamliners included an emergency landing of an All Nippon Airways Boeing 787. All 17 of Nippon Airways’ Boeing 787s have Rolls-Royce engines, according to Kennedy.

There was also a battery incident that involved a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 at Logan International Airport in Boston. All five of Japan Airlines’ Boeing 787s are GEnx-powered, Kennedy said, but the incident also did not involve the engines.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued a press release Wednesday that said that as a result of the in-flight battery incident in Japan Wednesday, it was issuing an emergency directive to address potential battery fire risk in the 787 requiring U.S. operators to temporarily cease operations.

Before further flight, operators of U.S.-registered Boeing 787 aircraft have to demonstrate to the FAA that batteries are safe, the release states. The FAA is working with the manufacturer and carriers to develop a corrective plan.

United Airlines is the only U.S. airline operating the 787, according to the release. It has six airplanes in service.

Loretta Gunter, a spokeswoman for Boeing, said in an email that there is no timeline for returning to flight. The company must complete the actions described. She said in an email Thursday evening the company had one airplane cancellation but that was “clearly for other reasons.”

“We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity,” said Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney in a statement following the FAA directive. “We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the traveling public of the 787's safety and to return the airplanes to service.”