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Pratt & Whitney To Assist In Denver Crash Investigation

November 16, 1987

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney sent an investigator to Denver on Monday to assist in the investigation of a DC-9 jetliner crash that killed 26 people.

The Continental Airlines jet, which crashed Sunday as it was taking off in a snowstorm, was powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-7 engines. There was no indication the engines were at fault.

The company sent an investigator to assist the National Transportation Safety Board, said Ed Cowles, a spokesman for Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of Hartford-based United Technologies Corp.

The company’s crash team, a panel of company experts, also met Monday to assist, he said.

Another UTC subsidiary, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Services of Canada Ltd. also found itself involved in an airplane crash Monday. A corporate plane powered by P&W Canada turboprops slammed into a wooded hillside Monday in Fort Atkinson, Wis., killing at least seven people.

Louise Boutin, a spokswoman for P&W Canada, said her company had offered to send an expert to assist in the investigation. The plane was a King Air 200, a 10-seater made by Beech Aircraft Corp.

The JT8D engine is a mainstay of the aviation industry. Since its introduction in 1964, it has logged more than 300 million flight hours, according to Jack Pardee of the Federal Aviation Administration.

There are more than 6,000 JT8D engines of various models in use by U.S. airlines and 3,000 by foreign carriers, said Dave Long, another P&W spokesman.

The FAA’s national field office for standards in Oklahoma City, where data is collected on aircraft accidents and incidents, said aircraft using JT8D engines were involved in 433 accidents and incidents from 1980 to 1985. But it wasn’t until two years ago that the engines were linked to any deaths.

In August 1985, a JT8D-15 on a British Airtours Boeing 737 exploded in England, causing 53 passenger deaths. In September 1985, two JT8D-7 engines lost power on a Midwest Express DC-9 in Milwaukee, contributing to a crash that killed 31 people.

After the crashes, the FAA issued orders to U.S. carriers reinforcing P&W engine maintenance recommendations.

″There’s nothing in our records to indicate it (JT8D-7 engine) was the cause of any crash,″ Long said.

In the Milwaukee crash, an engine part known as a spacer had not been replaced as recommended. The NTSB cited the engine as a contributing factor in the crash. But it said the main cause was the airline’s crew failure to respond to the loss of power and improper use of flight controls.

In the Airtours crash, investigators pointed to a combustion chamber that blew apart, sending metal fragments into a fuel tank. Subsequent inspections found cracks in some JT8D-15 engines.

The last major U.S. plane crash before Sunday was Aug. 16, when a Northwest Airlines MD-80 crashed on takeoff at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, killing 156 people.

That jet was powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-217 engines. Those engines weren’t at fault in the crash, said Cowles.

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