Crash investigators consider malfunction

Another EgyptAir jet was damaged in '97 when thrust reverser deployed

The Crash Of Flight 990

November 02, 1999|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

A thrust-reverser malfunction that caused heavy damage to an EgyptAir jet two years ago could become relevant in the investigation into Sunday's crash of a sister plane off Nantucket, Mass.

Although they have not ruled out other scenarios, authorities investigating the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990, a Boeing 767-300ER (extended-range) jetliner, will closely examine a scenario in which the inadvertent, in-flight deployment of an engine braking device used on landing, called a thrust reverser, flipped the jet into a sudden dive.

Documents show that an EgyptAir 767-200 ER, a smaller version of the plane that crashed Sunday, ran into trouble on a flight from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Cairo, Egypt, on May 25, 1997.

The leased aircraft was one of three 767s operated by EgyptAir at the time, and had 145 passengers and crew on board.

While the jet was cruising normally, the thrust-reverser panel on the right engine lifted and tore away, according to an Airclaims incident report.

Debris from the reverser damaged the underside of the right wing and the main cargo door. The flight landed safely.

EgyptAir returned the aircraft to the leasing company, UT Finance, in October 1997. The jet was subsequently sold to Leopard Leasing and is leased by an African carrier, Air Gabon.

Airclaims compiles records of any aircraft damage exceeding $100,000, or 10 percent of the aircraft's value. A company spokesman said there were no other reports of serious damage caused by thrust-reverser malfunctions in EgyptAir's fleet.

A thrust-reverser malfunction has emerged as a suspected cause in Sunday's crash because both the ill-fated EgyptAir jet and a Lauda Air 767 jet that crashed eight years ago in Thailand veered suddenly into a high-speed dive, with no distress calls from the crew.

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered a series of upgrades for thrust reversers of late-model 767s, 747s, 757s and 737s for all U.S.-registered jets. Foreign carriers such as EgyptAir typically abide by such mandates, but the FAA does not usually track compliance of foreign airlines.

EgyptAir officials said the FAA-ordered modifications had been made on the jet that crashed Sunday.

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