INCIDENT: JAL 777, Engine Flames Over Los Angeles

By Spyros Georgilidakis | October 17, 2021

The crew of a Japan Airlines (JAL) Boeing 777 returned for landing, after an engine malfunctioned, emitting flames. There were no injuries.

The incident happened on Friday, the 15th of October. It involved JAL flight JL-15, from Los Angeles (KLAX) in the United States, to Tokyo Haneda (RJTT) in Japan. The aircraft took off from runway 25R in LAX but didn’t go very long into its Pacific crossing before trouble came.

INCIDENT: JAL 777, Engine Flames Over Los Angeles
Photo: Glenn Beltz, CC BY 2.0

The JAL flight crew stopped their climb at 5,000 feet after the right-hand engine of their Boeing 777 malfunctioned. The pilots declared an emergency and requested a return to Los Angeles. They also requested to dump fuel, advising that they could climb to 6,000 feet before doing so. ATC quickly cleared them to that altitude, for fuel dumping.

Having secured their right-hand engine the JAL crew put their 777 on a hold over water, for their fuel dumping. They eventually made a safe landing, at runway 25L. The incident flight lasted approximately 45 minutes, the aircraft then taxiing to a remote stand. The jet has not flown since. The incident aircraft is a Boeing 777-300ER, tail number JA740J. It is just over 13 years old, JAL being its first and only operator.

INCIDENT: JAL 777, Engine Flames Over Los Angeles
Photo (cropped): Glenn Beltz, CC BY 2.0


The JAL 777 And Other Engine Variants

Note here that the 777-300ER has General Electric GE90-115B engines. There have been some incidents involving engine failures with 777 aircraft, including one belonging to JAL. However, these jets had Pratt & Whitney engines. This issue involves a different 777 variant, with damage to a different engine. Most 777s in service today have these GE90 engines.

Also, note that the exact nature of the malfunction isn’t clear. A single picture (even an exceptionally good one) doesn’t necessarily show the dynamics and nature of a malfunction. In a recent incident involving a 747, a well-timed picture seemed to suggest that an engine was in flames after landing. A video of the same event showed how lucky the photographer was (by his own admission) in capturing what was really an instantaneous event.

However, it is worth noting that a similar-looking engine malfunction, involving another JAL 777, happened in 2017. On that occasion, the cause involved a fractured fifth stage stator vane, due to arch-binding. This then caused more fractures downstream of the 5th stage. Flames behind the engine were the result of improper fuel-air mixture, after the damage. But again: “similar-looking”, by comparing still pictures, is highly subjective.

As for this incident, the photographer who captured this image of the JAL 777 engine trouble is Glenn Beltz. He took the photo from Imperial Hill, a popular viewing spot south of LAX. Beltz explains that he was in mid-conversation with people at the site when the smoke behind the aircraft caught his attention.


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