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Plane in Hudson River had engine type that drew FAA scrutiny

  • Story Highlights
  • FAA issued directive in December and all similar engines were inspected
  • Compression failures reported in six instances out of 43 million flight hours
  • Same plane that crashed into Hudson had experienced compression failures
  • Engine manufacturer says stats show engine was "more reliable than an elevator"
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By Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost
CNN Special Investigations Unit
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(CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration in December ordered inspections of the type of engine on the US Airways plane that landed in New York's Hudson River because a small number of them had experienced compression stalls, an FAA spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday.

US Airways Flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River after apparently hitting a flock of birds.

US Airways Flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River after apparently hitting a flock of birds.

The agency issued an "airworthiness directive" on December 13 mandating that the engines be inspected, said FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette.

She said all U.S. airlines complied with the directive and all the CFM56-5B engines were inspected.

"Globally, this was addressed before [the January 15] accident," she said.

The compressor stalls "could prevent continued safe flight or landing," according to the FAA directive.

The directive was prompted by six compressor stalls in planes with those engines, said Rick Kennedy, a spokesman for GE Aviation, which co-owns the engine manufacturer, CFM International.

He said 12 of the engines had temperatures above what is considered acceptable. He said it was "exceedingly unlikely" that any of those engines were in the US Airways plane that went down January 15.

"We checked every single engine in the fleet," Kennedy said.

He said six compressor stalls out of 43 million flight hours indicate the engines are "more reliable than an elevator."

Two days before US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River, the same plane had experienced problems, CNN reported on January 19. That plane also was Flight 1549 -- also taking off from LaGuardia to Charlotte, North Carolina, but on January 13.

Four passengers on the January 13 flight said the crew got on the intercom and said the plane was experiencing compression stalls.

Alison Camastra, who was one of those passengers, said she heard four loud bangs on the right side of the plane and that the pilot said the aircraft had "multiple compressor stalls."

Camastra, from New York, said, "It crossed my mind maybe that the plane would crash, but that's a thought you sort of put to the back. I just remember thinking, I wanna be on the ground, I wanna be on the ground."

She said the pilot told passengers that "multiple compressor stalls were 'very rare.' "

Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, confirmed, "There was an entry in the accident aircraft maintenance log indicating that a compressor stall occurred on January 13. Our investigators plan to interview the pilot of that flight to learn more about the incident."

As far as the accident on January 15, he said, the NTSB has not "found any indications of anomalies or malfunctions with the aircraft from the time it left the gate in LaGuardia to the point at which the pilots reported a bird strike and a loss of engine power."

Camastra said she was worried about what was going to happen on her flight.

"I remember thinking to myself, the wing's gonna fall off, and getting really scared. And then it made the noise again and the engine shook really bad," Camastra said.

She sent her boyfriend an e-mail on her BlackBerry.

"I said, 'I am on the plane and we are experiencing problems or there's a problem with the engine,' " Camastra said. "I said we are turning around and going back to the airport and then I said, 'I love you so much.' I almost didn't want to predict whether or not we were going to make it to the airport or what would happen."

Camastra and three other passengers on the January 13 flight recalled that crew members said they would turn the plane around and head back to New York, but the pilot announced shortly after that the problem had been corrected.

"You know, I can't speculate. And of course it could be birds, as they say. But it's kind of concerning to me, as bad as the noises were and the shaking was on the plane that we were on, that they were still flying that plane two days later definitely concerns me," Camastra said.

Chris Norton, a commercial pilot who also is executive vice president of Indianapolis, Indiana-based Expert Aviation Consulting, said a compressor stall occurs when the airflow is momentarily interrupted. In serious cases, he said, it can cause the engine to shut down.


"There are times you may have a compressor stall that you aren't aware of and there might be other times you may have a compressor stall with catastrophic results," Norton said.

He said, "The loud bang that people are referring to, that they hear, is the actual stall of the compressor section of the engine."

CNN's Jessi Joseph contributed to this report.

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