One December 13, Air North’s Boeing 737 was speeding down the Whitehorse runway at 200 kilometres an hour when there was a loud bang and the plane yawed to the right.
“We had an engine malfunction on takeoff,” said Air North president and CEO Joe Sparling.
Passengers saw flames shooting out of the engine inlet and exhaust pipe, according to the Aviation Herald.
“We rejected takeoff and taxied back to the gate,” said Sparling.
During takeoff there were a couple of cockpit instrument indications, and the pilot heard a couple of pops.
“At that point they decided to reject the takeoff and come back to the gate,” he said.
“When you have a compressor stall, it’s like a backfire in a car, sometimes you’ll see flames coming out the exhaust.
“The engine kept running,” he added.
“It was still producing power, and if you’re far enough into your takeoff, the plane is quite capable — even if the engine quits entirely — of taking off and climbing around and coming back.”
Air North switched planes and continued its planned trip to Vancouver four and a half hours late.
The problem engine has been pulled off the plane, said Sparling.
“It’ll either end up going to the shop, or a shop team will come up and look at it here, we’re not really sure which at this point.”
The engine may have some foreign material in it, he added.
“We have had a couple of bird strikes and sometimes this sort of malfunction could have something to do with the engine ingesting something,” said Sparling.
“But with the bird strikes, it was something we hardly noticed until we found the bird debris in the engine.”
A visual inspection revealed a rubber seal hanging off the “compressor 2 inlet guide vane,” according to the Herald.
“No evidence of foreign-object damage was found.
“The engine had shown similar behaviour immediately after its installation in April 2007.”
“This is the first significant engine malfunction we’ve had,” said Sparling, of his three Boeing 737s, all from the 1980s.
In business since 1977, Air North has experienced other engine malfunctions over the years, but never with its Boeing 737s, he said.
“Piston engines were notoriously more troublesome than the modern jet and turbine engines you operate today,” said Sparling.
Air North is hoping to buy a more fuel-efficient Boeing 737 in 2009, he added.
Although it’s down to two planes, Air North isn’t having any scheduling problems.
“Our schedules can generally can be flown with one aircraft, we keep the other two for charter purposes, and there’s not a lot of charter activity at this time of year,” he said.
“And running into Christmas, we expect to be without an engine on one of the aircraft for a month or so.”
The only real problem now is the weather, said Sparling.
“We’ve experienced weather delays, not here, but in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.
“It was especially challenging in Vancouver.”
But it’s worse for Air Canada.
“For us it’s easy, we just go in and out of Vancouver once a day,” said Sparling.
“But if (Air Canada’s) cycling their airplanes through Vancouver four or five times a day and also going to other airports with snow and weather challenges, delays compound pretty quickly and pretty soon you can’t catch up.”
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