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"Engine component failure" most likely cause of RAAF Growler fire incident

written by australianaviation.com.au | February 27, 2018

A file image of the damaged RAAF Growler. (Barry Ambrose)
A file image of the damaged RAAF Growler. (Barry Ambrose)

Engine component failure has been identified as the most likely cause of the catastrophic engine failure and subsequent fire onboard an RAAF EA-18G Growler at Nellis AFB on January 28.

The aircraft was taking off for a famil flight over the Nellis Test & Training Range in preparation for the commencement of Exercise Red Flag 18-1 when, as it approached rotation speed, it suffered what Defence has described as a “malfunction”, with the crew forced to conduct a high-speed abort.

The two crew stayed with the aircraft until it came to rest off the side of Nellis’s eastern runway, and were able to climb out of the jet and get clear of the rapidly growing fire.

“The highly trained aircrew responded to the emergency situation and performed a ground evacuation,” a Defence spokesman told sister magazine ADBR on February 27.

“The Directorate of Defence Aviation and Air Force Safety (DDAAFS) Accident Investigation Team (AIT), working in cooperation with the United States Navy, have carried out engineering inspections that indicate the most likely cause is an engine component failure.”


As a result of the right hand side engine’s failure, the RAAF placed an operational pause on all F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler flying on January 30. Both aircraft types, operated by 82 Wing, are powered by GE F414 engines.

“Following continued technical analysis and data processing, the Operational Pause on 82WG aircraft was lifted on 1 February 2018,” the Defence spokesperson said.

“82WG Super Hornet aircraft recommenced flying at RAAF Base Amberley on 5 February, and the EA-18G Growler resumed flying at Nellis Air Force Base on 8 February 2018.”

No power or weight restrictions were placed on the Growler fleet following the lifting of the operational pause, the spokesperson confirmed.

ADBR understands the failure may be attributed to an issue which is restricted to a relatively small number of engines.

However, “As the investigation is still ongoing, Defence cannot comment on the specifics of block build engines,” the spokesperson said.

“The RAAF fleet of F414 engines are interchangeable between the Growler and Super Hornets. Further investigation including the development of actions on specific engine components is continuing.
“ACG (Air Combat Group) has determined that operating certain engines can be carried out within extant and appropriate risk profiles. The 82WG fleet returned to normal operations using these engines.”
Damage to the Growler looks to be extensive from the limited number of images (above and below) seen so far, particularly on the starboard fin and rear fuselage, but Defence has yet to make a formal recommendation to government on the aircraft’s fate.
“Defence continues to assess options in regard to the future of the airframe and will make a recommendation to Government once the assessment is completed,” the spokesperson noted.

image – Barry Ambrose


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Comments (11)

  • Paul


    Engine component failure leads to fires! Yep sounds about right. Just replace it with another 10 Growlers ?

  • Allan


    Good to know the they have found the cause, And the fleet is back flying again.

  • Beepa


    Now if this happened to one of our F35’s the usual suspects would be howling/crying it’s a pos, not worth the money..a lemon etc. But when it happens to a Super Bug all you hear is the sound of silence….

  • Paul


    Beeps, the Rhinos have never had this happen before so that is why no one has battered an eyelid. The F-35s engine caught fire when it had so many other problems as well. When an new aircrafts engine catches fire, of course it’s going to attract a lot more criticism. Cheers..

  • PAUL


    Sounds like an F414 EDE requirement..

  • greg


    Looks like a warranty job to me

  • Chuck


    F414 EDE project was not funded by the USN. So it’s not going to happen.

  • Jasonp


    The F-35 engine fire was an engine manufacturing fault, nothing to do with the design.
    I suspect the Growler issue will be the same seeing as the 414 has been flying for 20+ years.

  • Rowey


    I think the aircraft is repairable and should return after an R4 service and inspection.

  • B. Harrison


    This aircraft is literally brand new. Would anyone know what the policy/procedure (if any) there is on a warranty, replacement or repair. But as I have stated before, if I had a brand new vehicle that did that, I would say to the manufacturer you can have this one back and I want a new one.

  • Paul


    I guess you could blame GE couldn’t you? It was an engine fault so they would be liable to replace it?

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