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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

British Airways Sues Chicago Over Boeing 787 Engine Damage

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Almost exactly one year ago, three British Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliners sustained engine damage from foreign object debris while at Chicago O’Hare. The airline needed to perform heavy maintenance on all six engines, resulting in unforeseen costs and canceled flights. BA has now launched a suit against the city of Chicago, requesting over $3 million in damages.

BA 787 Chicago
British Airways claims the city of Chicago was negligent in not checking the taxiways and runways of O’Hare for debris and foreign objects. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Debris left behind after works

It may be the flag carrier of the UK, but when in Rome… British Airways is suing the city of Chicago for $3.2 million (approximately £ 2.4 million). The suit alleges that three of the carrier’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners had to be taken out of service after sustaining engine damage at Chicago O’Hare (ORD) between November 30th and December 1st, 2020.

In the complaint filed with a court in Illinois, BA says that while traversing the runway, the three aircraft’s engines ingested debris that had been left behind following resurfacing and expansion work on one of ORD’s terminals.

Reportedly, the debris caused significant damage to all six engines, forcing BA to take the planes out of operation for several days. The engines required complete teardowns and inspections, leading to the cancellation of several flights.

BA claims that the city of Chicago, which is the operator of O’Hare and the airport certificate holder, neglected to fulfill its duties to keep the taxiways and runways free from debris, foreign objects, and other contaminants,

“Under federal laws, rules, and regulations, the city of Chicago had duties to inspect the taxiways and runways and to remove any [foreign object debris] left on the taxiways and runways following construction and resurfacing works, and the city of Chicago failed to meet these duties,” British Airways said in the suit as reported by Law 360.

BA 787
BA had to take the three aircraft out of operations for several days to perform maintenance on all six engines. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

Airport negligent in its inspection, BA says

British Airways is claiming negligence and negligence per see, as well as a breach of contract on behalf of the city. According to the lease agreement with the airline, Chicago must comply with all federal regulations. These include inspecting the runways and making sure that they are clear of foreign object debris (FOD).

In response to a request for comment, British Airways told Simple Flying the airline does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Rolls-Royce, Trent XWB-84, 1000 engines
Engine maintenance takes up a big chunk of airlines’ operating expenses – even more so when it is unscheduled. Photo: Rolls-Royce

Expensive unscheduled maintenance

Aircraft maintenance costs represent between 10% to 15% of an airline’s operating expenses. Of this, about 35% to 45% are engine-related. To have to send three widebody aircraft with either General Electric GEnx-1B or Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 to unscheduled maintenance not only costs a fortune but also throws a wrench (no pun intended) into operations – even at times of low demand such as the fall of 2020.

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