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Boeing Assailed on British Airways Engine Fire

CHICAGO (CN) - Dozens of passengers bound for London got the fright of their lives when an engine on their plane exploded before takeoff from Las Vegas, they claim in court.

Sixty-five passengers or crew on the ill-fated British Airways Flight 2276 filed the Nov. 25 complaint in Cook County Circuit Court, naming only Boeing and GE Aviation Systems as defendants.

While the plane was preparing for takeoff from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Sept. 8, "the engine on the left side of the ... aircraft sustained an uncontained catastrophic failure and burst into flames," according to the nine-page complaint.

The plaintiffs, residents of the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Ireland, say they were forced to evacuate.

They blame the near-tragedy on the defective design of the aircraft, a Boeing 777-236 ER.

Indeed, Boeing has even "negligently lobbied against more stringent requirements for inspections of the engines and the HP compressor of the engines on the accident aircraft to save costs at the expense of passenger and crew safety," the complaint states.

Floyd Wisner, a Geneva, Ill.-based attorney for the plaintiffs, said in an interview that such lobbying did not affect regulations, but it "shows their motivations."

"We know there were inspection problems with this model engine," Wisner said.

A Federal Aviation Administration investigation into the incident is still underway, and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has issued several updates on the engine fire over the last few months.

The passengers say that the "HP compressor disc, blades spool and other components of the HP compressor section of the engines on the accident aircraft were subject to fracture and failure."

The compressor was furthermore "unable to withstand surge and stall events without suffering fractures and other damage" or "blade, disc and thermal stress," according to the complaint.

An airplane engine's high-pressure compressor reportedly increases the pressure of air flowing into the fuel chamber for combustion.

CNN reported that, when the emergency doors were opened, smoke poured into the plane and the 159 passengers and 13 crew members used inflatable slides to escape. Thirteen people were reportedly sent to the hospital for treatment.

Wisner said passengers experienced a lot of back injuries caused by going down the slides. "It's not an easy thing," the attorney said in an interview.

Noting that he has been receiving calls from other passengers of the plane, Wisner said another lawsuit may be filed to include them.

The plaintiffs also blame Boeing and GE for their failure to "advise and instruct as to the proper method and frequency of the inspection, maintenance and repair of the engines."

A representative for Boeing said the company does not comment on pending litigation. GE Aviation did not respond to an email seeking comment.

"It's a pretty horrifying experience," Wisner said of the fire and evacuation. Some of the passengers travel often for business and have no choice but to continue flying, but "some say they'll never fly again," Wisner added.

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