I’ve received a number of emails from folks who saw these pictures of what is ostensibly an Air China jumbo jet with a very badly FOD’d (foreign object damage) engine.
Many of the emails allege that the jet was inspected in a western country where the damage was first noticed, imputing a rather lackadaisical standard of air safety on the part of China’s national carrier.
A pilot for a Chinese carrier requested permission and landed at FRA (Frankfurt, Germany) for an unscheduled refueling stop. The reason became soon apparent to the ground crew: The
Number 3engine had been shut down because of excessive vibration, and because it didn’t look so good. It had apparently been no problem for the tough guys back in China: they took some sturdy straps and wrapped them around several of the fan blades and the structures behind, thus stopping any unwanted windmilling (engine spinning by itself due to airflow passing thru the blades during flight) and associated uncomfortable vibration caused by the suboptimal fan.
Note that the straps are seatbelts….how resourceful!
After making the “repairs”, off they went into the wild blue yonder with another revenue-making flight on only three engines! With the increased fuel consumption, they got a bit low on fuel, and just set it down at the closest airport for a quick refill. That’s when the problems started: The Germans, who are kind of picky about this stuff, inspected the malfunctioning engine and immediately grounded the aircraft.
(Besides the seatbelts, notice the appalling condition of the fan blades.)
The airline operator had to send money to get the first engine replaced (it took about
10 days).The repair contractor decided to do some impromptu inspection work on the other engines, none of which looked all that great either.
The result: a total of 3 engines were eventually changed on this plane before it was permitted to fly again.
Now, I certainly can’t speak for the narrative above – and Snopes.com calls its provenance “undetermined” – but it’s almost certain that the jet pictured is in Air China livery. And those seem to be packing straps rather than seat belts, which doesn’t answer the question of whether the engine was secured for flight with the straps to prevent vibration (unlikely), the straps were the source of the FOD (unlikely) or whether they were placed in the damaged engine to secure it for shipping (what’s left over).
What is true is that I’ve never seen an engine so comprehensively damaged at the first stage. Most FODs that I’ve seen involve a hard object damaging the first stage blades only slightly, chipping off pieces that cause cascading damage to the fan and and compressor blades aft of that one. I’ve seen engines so badly damaged at the back end that you could see daylight through the low pressure turbine that had only a very tiny, single hit up front.
My guess is that whatever it was went through that engine, there was a lot of it, there was no mistake in the crew’s mind that they had hit it and very little likelihood that anyone could take one look at that engine and decide to fly to Europe on it.
But that’s just guessing.