Fuel Icing Likely Culprit of 777 Crash at Heathrow
The UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) today issued an interim report for the January 17 accident involving a British Airways Boeing 777 that landed short of Runway 27L at London Heathrow Airport. According to the NTSB, which cooperated in the accident investigation, “Both engines lost power in the final minute of flight because the fuel flow to each engine was restricted, most probably due to an accumulation of ice within the engine fuel feed system. The ice is likely to have formed from water–which exists naturally in the fuel–while the aircraft operated for a long period, with low fuel flows, in the cold environment associated with high-altitude flight.” While the AAIB issued interim recommendations specific to the Boeing 777 and its Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engine “to reduce the risk of ice formed from water in aviation turbine fuel causing a restriction in the fuel feed system,” the agency also released two broader recommendations for all jets. The AAIB asked both the FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to consider the implications of the findings of this investigation on other certified airframe/engine combinations, as well as review the current certification requirements to ensure that aircraft and engine fuel systems are tolerant to the potential build-up and sudden release of ice in the fuel system.