KTVA, Channel 2 News
by Bianca Slota
Thursday, August 2, 2007
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A Shared Services Flight shuttling North Slope workers from Deadhorse to Anchorage had to be turned back Tuesday after an engine on the plane failed.
The flight operators said it was a minor incident with no cause for alarm, but employees on the slope describe it as just the latest in a string of problems that has made them afraid of flying with their employers.
ConocoPhillips operates Shared Services Aviation as a free flight service for North Slope employees. The flights used to be operated by Alaska Airlines but are now operated by Northern Air Cargo.
On Tuesday at 12:15 p.m., Flight 151-152 from Deadhorse to Anchorage experienced engine failure. Pilots turned the plane around and landed back at Deadhorse.
SSA sent a message to all North Slope workers which said:
"From the initial inspection, it appears that the mounting for the right engine nose cone, a small protective cover on the center of the engine inlet, broke, causing the nose cone to damage the compressor. This disrupted the airflow and caused the engine to backfire. The same part on the other SSA engines was inspected to ensure that there are no issues."
Passengers on board the plane say it seemed much more serious to them. One man sent an e-mail to Channel 2 News, stating,
"It was a very troubling situation in which the flight attendants were yelling to the passengers to grab our ankles and put our heads down for what seemed to be several minutes. I thought I was going to die. The pilot managed to get us turned around and we landed on one engine."As word about the incident spreads, so does fear among slope workers. One man, who asked not to be identified, said there were many concerns.
"The concerns are that we're afraid that they're gonna wait until a major catastrophe happens before they address the issues completely, before they get new aircraft. That's what our concerns are. We're very much concerned for our safety," he said.The plane that experienced the engine failure is now out of service and another from the fleet is out for routine maintenance, so SSA is operating five flights with just one plane.
BP Exploration sent a message to its employees and contractors saying that flights are now limited to essential employees only.
SSA said the FAA has been alerted about the incident. The failed engine will be shipped to an overhaul for complete analysis, and, in the meantime, another engine has been sent to Deadhorse and will be mounted on the plane.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was contacted about an incident earlier this year in which the flight crew thought it had an engine stall on approach.
But a spokesperson for the NTSB said the board couldn't find evidence of the stall.
It has looked into other reports of engine problems and said it has found nothing out of the ordinary and nothing to be concerned about.
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