Seattle, Washington - Boeing said one of the first revamped GE9X engines intended to power its 777X flight-test aircraft was damaged during a freight shipping accident last month.
While the incident isn’t expected to create a new delay for the 777X, it does add to a string of mishaps to confound Boeing’s newest model.
The 777X is already behind schedule because of an engine durability issue. And in September, a cargo door blew out of an airframe during the closing minutes of an aerodynamic-stress test.
The hulking wide-body jet will be the first new Boeing airliner to face the rigors of certification since the 737 MAX made its commercial debut in 2017. The 737 MAX, Boeing’s best-selling plane, has been grounded since March after two deadly crashes, thrusting the company into one of the worst crises in its 103-year history.
The damaged GE9X engine was among the first to be sent to Boeing with parts redesigned for greater durability. The rare mishap occurred last month during a hard landing while the turbofan was being ferried to Paine Field, adjacent to Boeing’s main wide-body factory in Everett, Washington. Earlier this year, the company postponed the 777X’s initial flight after GE discovered wear issues for the compressor stator that affected about 18 engines.
Safety is our highest priority. We are working closely with GE as they assess the condition of one GE9X engine damaged during shipment,
Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said in an email.
At this time, there does not appear to be any major damage. Boeing recently received reconfigured engines for the first flight airplane and remains on track for first flight in early 2020.
Volga-Dnepr Airlines, a Russian cargo carrier that handles shipments of oversize items for Boeing, sought emergency approval from the U.S. Transportation Department on Nov. 4 to return the power plant to Peebles, Ohio, for additional testing.
Boeing and GE later scrapped the shipment after determining that the engine could be repaired in Everett, Bergman said. GE referred all questions to Boeing.
The aircraft factory had other repaired GE9X engines on hand and is installing the first pair on jets that will be used for flight-testing next year.
The GE9X is the world’s biggest engine, with an 11-foot front fan diameter, and the most powerful. It was recently clocked producing a record 134,300 pounds of thrust, according to GE.