The U.S. Air Force discovered a fan blade defect in Pratt & Whitney’s F100-PW-229 fighter-jet engine while investigating a mishap, according to service officials.
“Once they tore into the root cause [of the mishap], they noticed that there was a defect with the actual blades in the engine,” said Maj. Gen. John Rauch, commander of the Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. “So [they] went back, discovered that it was a manufacturing process and then real quickly, time critically, went across the fleet.”
So far, 94 percent of active engines, including spares, and more than 15,000 fan blades have been inspected with a borescope, the safety center said in a statement. As a result of those inspections, 163 fan blades, or more than 1 percent, were deemed defective and removed, Rauch testified at an aviation safety hearing June 13 before the House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air and land forces panel.
The F100-PW-229 engine powers F-15s and F-16s. The defect was found while the Air Force was investigating a Class A mishap, the most serious kind of accident. The Air Force declined to say more about the mishap.
Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corp. [UTX], declined to comment on the matter, referring questions to the Air Force. But according to a company website, the F100-PW-229 "has the best safety record of any increased-performance engine."
The family of F100 engines has been selected by 23 air forces and amassed more than 24 million flights. Pratt & Whitney has built more than 7,200 F100s.