This dramatic video shows the destructive forces unleashed when a fan blade fails in the jet engine of a widebody airliner – as is believed to have happened on an AirAsia X aircraft forced to return to Perth on Sunday.
In the case of the video, the engine manufacturer opted to trash an expensive engine to demonstrate that a safety system called a containment ring worked and used explosives to detach the blade.
Containment systems can be made of of kevlar, the substance used in body armour, or titanium. They are designed to prevent a disintegrating fan blade, the tips of which are moving faster than the speed of sound and are subject to tremendous force, from ripping through the side of the engine and into the wings or body of the plane.
The fragments instead pass through the engine, often wreaking havoc as they go. The test in this video destroyed the multi-million-dollar engine but the high-energy fragments from the detached blade were successfully contained.
Fan blades are marvel of modern engineering and failures are rare — but they do happen. They can be the result of a manufacturing problem or if miniscule cracks are not detected during maintenance.
The Rolls-Royce Trent 700-series engine powering the AirAsia X plane sported titanium fan blades and a Kevlar containment system which also appears to have done its job.
t was revealed this morning that the Air Asia X engine failure that forced it to return to Perth on Sunday could have been far worse – if fuel lines had been ripped out or electrics severely damanged for degraded.
The plane, bound for Kuala Lumpur, was more than an hour into its journey after leaving Perth just before 7am when it suffered the engine failure.
Passengers told of hearing a loud bang and seeing a small explosion from the left wing, before the captain announced the plane would be turning around.
“He said, ‘I hope you all say a prayer, I’ll be saying a prayer too and let’s hope we all get back home safely’,” Sophie Nicolas said.
“It was terrifying.”
An investigation into the mid-air drama could take months.