The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered airlines to urgently fix the engines on their Boeing 787 Dreamliners because of an icing problem.

This problem could cause a specific model of General Electric engine to shut down in flight. The safety mandate concerns about 176 Dreamliners at 29 airlines, amounting to 44 percent of the worldwide fleet.

The airlines flying the most advanced 787 Dreamliners were ordered to modify or replace at least one GEnx-1B PIP2 engine with older models.

The FAA said that the modifications would prevent ice from accumulating on fan blades in engines. It recommends at least one engine on all affected 787 Dreamliners to be replaced or repaired within five months. In the United States, the mandate affects only 43 planes operated by airlines but other countries are also ordered to comply.

The FAA's airworthiness directive (AD) followed a recent incident wherein an engine on a passenger jet failed in midair. One of the two engines on a Japan Airlines (JAL) 787 shut down in mid-flight and couldn't be restarted.

The jet traveling from Vancouver to Tokyo carried 166 passengers was about 90 miles from Tokyo's Narita airport when one of its engines failed. The pilots were able to use the alternative engine, an older version of the same model that was not vulnerable to ice buildup.

The companies are given 150 days to comply to the mandate and pilots will be advised on preventing engine icing when they're in high altitudes.

"Recognizing the urgency of this safety issue, this AD represents a compressed schedule to rework a large number of airplanes located around the world," the FAA said.

"Both specialized tooling and trained personnel are required on-site to perform the rework at various maintenance facilities around the world. To complete the work, 29 airlines will need to reallocate 176 airplanes from revenue service to maintenance in order to conduct the (on-wing) rework," it added.

In 2013, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board opened a safety inquiry after reports of fuel leaks and an electrical wiring problem on Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The FAA also grounded all 787 airliners because of a potential fire hazard with the battery system.

In 2015, Boeing discovered a bug in the 787 Dreamliner's software that could lead to a sudden loss of all power in the aircraft at 35,000 feet.

Photo: Tomoaki Inaba | Flickr 

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