Safety warnings on Boeing 777 ignored by FAA

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More than 130 Boeing jetliners whose engines face the risk of icing up in rare conditions can continue flying long transcontinental flights until early 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration announ

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More than 130 Boeing jetliners whose engines face the risk of icing up in rare conditions can continue flying long transcontinental flights until early 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration announced last week in a move that rejected the warnings of safety experts and pilots.

Two suspect parts in the Rolls-Royce engine used by the Boeing 777 airliners will be replaced in 2011. Federal regulators said the interim safety measures for the planes were sufficient to prevent mishaps, such as midair engine shutdowns or emergency descents, according to a Wall Street Journal report ($) Monday.

The National Transportation Safety Board had previously urged the FAA to speed up the parts replacement in at least one of the planes’ two engines. The Air Line Pilots Association separately advised quicker action.

Limited availability of parts is one reason for the later deadline, industry sources told the Journal.

According to the report, ice-induced shutdowns are rare – only three reported incidents over millions of flights. One such instance occurred when a British Airways flight came up short of the runway at London’s Heathrow Airport in January 2008, injuring 13 people.

The interim safety measures are all operational, meaning pilots must take certain precautions to prevent ice-buildup, which can occur during long cruise periods at high altitudes over polar regions.

Boeing and Rolls-Royce have said they are further studying the icing problem. American Airlines, which uses the Boeing 777 said it will try to complete the replacements as soon as possible.

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