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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chinese Jet Engine Maintenance

Truth or Fiction? 
A friend sent me the following post.  Truth is often stranger than fiction. You decide the reality.  But remember... one bad egg does not mean the entire carton is rotten. It does mean we should inspect closely.

"For anybody who is not familiar with a jet engine, a jet fan blade should be perfectly smooth.

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 3 engine had been shutdown previously because of excessive vibration, and because it didn't look too good. It had apparently been no problem for the ground crew back in China: as they took some sturdy straps and wrapped them around two of the fan blades and the structures behind, thus stopping any unwanted wind-milling (engine spinning by itself due to airflow passing thru the blades during flight) and associated uncomfortable vibration caused by the sub optimal fan.

Note that the straps are seat-belts.... 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 (FRA) 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 seat-belts, notice the appalling condition of the fan blades.) The airline operator had to send a chunk of money to get the first engine replaced (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."

Be Thankful for maintenance regulations... 
They can keep you safe!

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene


  1. Hi, Karlene!

    That's an interesting anecdote (which may even be true :-) ). But, on the subject, I commend to your attention China Airborne by Jim Fallows. It's a well done book, published a year or so ago, that looks at the issues and opportunities for aerospace in China and considers the industry as a proxy for China's larger situation. (Jim writes (superbly) for The Atlantic and flies an SR-22 out of KGAI.)

    Best regards,


    1. Frank, Thank you so much for the recommendation. Just popped over and added it on my book list with Amazon. Looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Holy moly!

    Now that's some outside-the-box thinking on that Chinese repair crew--pure genius!

    OK, snarky sarcasm aside...I have to say, China continually proves to be a 3rd world country with first world status...I'm sorry, but they need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, out of the dark ages. And let's not even get started on human rights issues...

    Thanks for this disturbing report!

    1. No kidding!!! And now on that snarky sarcasm... did you know that a leg from a pair of nylons can work as a replacement for a fan belt on your engine? Creativity in a time of crisis is great. But... a standard practice... eeek!
      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Are you sure those are seatbelts? Looks more like a cargo tie-down strap, which makes me wonder (just to play devil's advocate), if this photo were NOT of an intentional "duct tape repair", perhaps it was an engine that ingested an errant strap off the ramp.

    Either way, I'm sure China's very "wild west" right now. I flew with a Chinese national here in the U.S. who regaled me with some fascinating stories about flying back home. I'll spare you the details to protect the guilty, but I know a lot of that stuff goes on here in the U.S. as well. I had a student once who flew beautifully. I checked him out in a Pitts S-2C that he'd bought. Later found out he didn't have a pilot certificate. He said in Nebraska, farmers just bought airplanes and flew them; they really didn't bother with the formality of a pilot certificate. He'd been handed the keys to the family's Cardinal when he was like 13 years old and told to just not leave the farm property, so he went out and taught himself to fly.

    1. Ron, what a great story.... who needs a license? lol. And I suspect you're right on with the straps. Those blades look pretty bad. And yes, I know it goes on here too. There was only one time I had a jumpseat to come home out of Terre Haute in the middle of the night and got off the plane! "No thank you."
      There was too much broken, and when they planned to depart with one engine... I thought that was enough. So, lets just say...some people should stick to racing cars, and others managing airplanes. lol Yes, it happens everywhere.
      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Sorry Karlene,
    I remember the incident, some 15 to 20 years ago.
    The straps, resemble seatbelts, but are part of the approved procedure. I also remember that at the time, I was living in Germany, and the word was, this was a US outfit, flying in Asia, and trying to get home like this for repairs. The problem was they did not fulfill all the requirements for the 3-engine ferry, and the boroscope required ont the 3 good engines, to minimize risks, came out with more findings.

    1. John, this is fascinating! Now that I can believe. Anything to hold it together to get out of town where repairs could be made. I am so glad you could share the truth behind these photos. Thanks!

  5. If this wasn't so serious it would be downright hilarious.
    It's a bit like RAF engineers during WWII & the Battle of Britain.
    'Make-do & mend' kind of thing.Except the Chinese aren't at war,I think!?

    1. I had to laugh when I read this... I hope they're not at war. lol. But ingenuity is awesome... not at the sacrifice of safety. I agree... funny if it weren't so serious.

  6. Check out Snopes.


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