FUKUOKA – A police sweep of residential areas Saturday in the city of Fukuoka found some 600 metal fragments believed to be from a Japan Airlines group jetliner that saw one of its three engines burst into flames after takeoff the night before.
After the engine trouble, the Honolulu-bound DC-10 operated by low-cost carrier JALways returned to Fukuoka Airport.
The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry had warned airlines of the possibility of an accident resulting from damage in that type of turbofan engine, according to industry sources.
Japan Airlines Corp., JALways’ parent company, said it found that some of the turbine blades and stator vanes inside the troubled engine were damaged.
On June 8, the ministry issued an order to improve engines of the JT9D-59A type, produced by Pratt & Whitney of the United States, after a similar order was issued by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on May 13, the sources said.
JAL said its group told the ministry it would replace parts of the engines by April 2010 and the ministry approved the plan. The engine parts have yet to be replaced.
None of the 216 passengers and 13 crew members aboard Flight JO58 was hurt, according to JAL. However, some children on the ground who had been playing soccer were hurt slightly when they were hit by the small fragments or got burned trying to pick them up, police said.
Fukuoka Prefectural Police sources did not rule out the possibility of launching a criminal investigation on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in injury.
Some of the largest fragments found Saturday measured about 3 cm in length.
JAL officials on Saturday afternoon began using a fiberscope to check the damage on the engine, located on the aircraft’s left wing, in the hope that it might give them clues as to what happened.
The engine burst into flames at around 7:45 p.m. According to JAL’s Web site, the flight left at 7:32 p.m. and returned at 8:25 p.m.
JAL said the engine developed trouble after some of its parts broke, denying the possibility it was hit by a bird or some other external object, because no damage was sustained by a rotating wing installed on the engine’s frontal area.
Excessive burning must have occurred as the flow of air inside the engine was disturbed after the parts broke, the carrier said.
The engine, manufactured in February 1980, had racked up 60,599 flight hours, according to JAL.
The engine’s interior had been checked every 600 flight hours, with the latest inspection, on June 18, showing no irregularities. All five DC-10s operated by JAL and JALways were to be sold by next March.
The roughly 140 passengers who decided to continue their trip boarded another JALways flight on Saturday night for Honolulu. That flight was on a Boeing 747, not a DC-10. According to JAL officials, about 60 people affected by Friday’s incident decided to cancel their travel plans altogether.
Yumiko Fujii, a 35-year-old company worker from the city of Fukuoka, said she was going to Honolulu on business.
“I can’t say I’m not nervous, but I’m glad that at least it’s a different type of aircraft,” she said.
Meanwhile, a 41-year-old man from the city of Nagasaki said he only became aware of the gravity of Friday’s incident through media reports.
“My family’s gone to Hawaii ahead of me, so I can’t put off my travel plans,” he said.
Japan Airlines Domestic Co. convened an emergency news conference at Fukuoka Airport late Friday night and apologized for the incident.
JALways, a JAL subsidiary, chiefly flies to Hawaii and other overseas resort destinations from local airports.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.