A Boeing 777 operated by Russian airline Rossiya has experienced engine issues on landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport this morning. The aircraft, a 15-year-old 777-300ER, did not have the same Pratt & Whitney PW4000-112 engines as those powering the United Airlines plane that rained parts over Denver last weekend. Reports suggest this was a FADEC failure, and that no emergency landing was initiated.
Pilots report FADEC malfunction
A Rossiya-operated Boeing 777-300ER had some issues landing this morning as it approached Moscow from Hong Kong. The aircraft was descending towards Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport when it reported to controllers that one of the FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control, often also referred to as EEC engine electronic control) channels had failed.
This affected control of the left-hand engine. Nevertheless, the 777 landed safely on runway 24L. Some reports have suggested that the aircraft had to make an emergency landing and that it was originally scheduled to continue on to Madrid. However, flight tracking data indicates that Moscow was always a planned stop and that the incident was minor.
The 15-year-old Boeing 777-300ER, registered EI-GET, is currently operated by Rossiya, with capacity for 466 passengers. It arrived with the airline in March 2018, and is named Magadan. Before flying for Rossiya, the aircraft spent 12 years in service with Emirates. Flown with a more premium-heavy seat configuration, it operated under registration A6-EBL from February 2006 until it was withdrawn from use in January 2018.
Although some 777 are fitted with the same Pratt & Whitney PW4000-112 engines that failed on the United 777 last weekend, this aircraft did not fly with those powerplants. Rather, it operated with two GE90 engines, and the problem it experienced was unrelated to the weekend’s incident in Denver.
What’s a FADEC?
The Full Authority Digital Engine Control or FADEC is a system which uses a digital computer to control all aspects of aircraft engine performance. It has been used for both piston engines and jet engines since the 1970s. Pratt & Whitney collaborated with NASA on an experimental FADEC in 1970, flown on an F-111 with a modified left engine. The first civilian engine to fly with FADEC was the PW2000, designed for the Boeing 757, and later the PW4000 series became the first dual FADEC engine.
Using FADEC helps the aircraft achieve better fuel efficiency, and gives automatic protection to the engine for out-of-tolerance operations. It also adds redundancy, with a multiple channel computer input providing backup in case of failure. It makes the pilots’ jobs easier, with semi-automatic engine starting, guaranteed thrust settings and long-term health monitoring with diagnostics.
The downside of this system is that if a total FADEC failure occurs, the engine fails entirely. This means pilots have no control to restart the engine, to use the throttle or any other functionality. However, most modern FADEC engines have a manual override, which counters the majority of these disadvantages.
While a failure of a critical system like this can be worrying, 777 pilots can land perfectly safely on one engine, as was proven today in Moscow. Nevertheless, the airline will be keen to ensure the system is 100% functional before the aircraft is put into service again. Flight tracking data shows it is still on the ground at Sheremetyevo at the present time.