On February 19, 2001, about 0730 central standard time, N2410W, registered as a Boeing 717-231, operated as Trans World Airlines (TWA) flight number 73, piloted by Airline Transport Pilot rated captain and copilot, sustained an in-flight thrust reverser deployment following a takeoff from General Mitchell International Airport (MKE), near Milwaukee Wisconsin. The flight landed at MKE without further incident. The scheduled domestic passenger flight was operating under 14 CFR Part 121. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the incident. The 2 flight crewmembers, 3 cabin crewmembers and 62 passengers were uninjured. The flight was on an IFR flight plan. The flight was originating from MKE at the time of the incident and was destined for Lambert-Saint Louis International Airport, near Saint Louis, Missouri.

Excerpts from that flight's debrief stated:

During the cockpit preflight, the right engine's EPR display
included an amber "T/R" light. The flight crew researched the
QRH (quick reference handbook) and the flight handbook, and
found no guidance for this problem. The Captain called the
Kansas City maintenance coordinator (MCIMD) and discussed
the problem with him. It was agreed that the engine would not
be started with the T/R displayed. Two procedures were to be
attempted by the flight crew before contract maintenance would
be called: 1) pressurization of the hydraulics, followed by
movement of the thrust reverse lever; and 2) an electrical
"depowering" of the aircraft, followed by a total reboot of the

The loading was complete and the ramp service man was on the
interphone; the Captain asked the agent to close the door and the
flight blocked at 0614L. The flight crew completed the two
procedures, with the ground crew verifying that the right engine's
thrust reverse lever was not moving the buckets. Neither procedure
cleared the problem T/R amber light; the flight was blocked-in at
0620 without having started an engine or moving the aircraft. (The
gate in use at MKE does not involve a pushback.)

The Captain phoned MCIMD and informed the coordinator that
the procedures were not helpful and [contract maintenance]
had been called. When the [contract maintenance] mechanic arrived, the
Captain explained the problem and stated that the proposed solution
was to lock out the right engine's thrust reverser and placard it as
inoperative. The [contract maintenance] mechanic was careful
and apprehensive as he reviewed the problem and stated that he
would need a full hardcopy of the appropriate maintenance manual
pages. He asked if there was one on the airplane, and the flight
crew said there was not. The Captain explained that these pages
are generally received by fax from MCIMD, which became the
agreed-upon course of action.

The [contract maintenance] mechanic explained his level of training
(one day of ground school and no "hands on" experience with the B717) to
MCIMD during a phone call as he requested a faxed, full copy of
the procedure. The Captain had introduced the mechanic to the
coordinator, who was a different individual as a shift change had
occurred at MCIMD. The fax was sent to the MKE station
manager's office and delivered to the [contract maintenance] mechanic
by the MKE operations agent. The [contract maintenance] mechanic
reviewed the procedure with the Captain; a placard and a circuit
breaker collar were obtained from the station personnel. The [contract
maintenance] mechanic completed the procedure that involved
the "pinning" of the right engine thrust reverser, and the logbook
signoff was reviewed with MCIMD. The amber T/R indication
was still displayed in the cockpit.

The flight departed the gate at 0720L. The takeoff was from
runway 19R, followed by two turns to a westerly heading. Prior to
slat retraction, at an altitude approximating 1400AGL and an
airspeed of 200K, the right engine thrust reverser deployed. The
airplane shuddered and rolled hard right; the T/R light was red. The
Captain immediately closed the right throttle; the engine was
secured shortly after the first officer was able to notify MKE
departure control of an emergency and immediate need to return
for landing. ATC cleared the flight for an immediate return with
clearance to land on any runway. The wind at takeoff was
southwesterly at 13 to 19 knots, which would require a landing
on either 19R or 25L. The position of the flight was crosswind
for 19R, and the distance to touchdown was shortest for 19R.

A right turn to the downwind resulted in a call from the first
officer of a 1500 fpm sink rate. To maintain a 1200AGL
downwind and 200K, slats extended, the Captain forced the left
engine thrust lever through the gate to obtain max thrust. (When time
permitted, the first officer made a PA announcement to the cabin
concerning our emergency condition; that we were returning and the
cabin should be prepared for landing; and that we would be on the
ground shortly.) A tight traffic pattern resulted in a safe landing after
6 minutes of airtime. ...

When the Captain arrived in the MKE operations office a few minutes
later, the [contract maintenance] mechanic was present and involved
in a phone conversation with MCIMD. When he completed the phone
call, he stated that MCIMD had not sent a fourth page that graphically
depicted the pinning of the B717 thrust reverser. The B717 requires
three pins to lock out the thrust reverser, and only one had been
installed as had been normal with the DC9 and MD80.

The thrust reverser was removed from the incident engine and shipped to the manufacturer for examination. A Federal Aviation Administration engineer oversaw the examination. Retrieved system data showed that after the prior flight the reverser, when stowed, moved to stowed position and did not lock. The examination revealed that the thrust reverser doors had over deployed. Four locking pins and their fork shaped locking triggers were inspected. Nicks and gouges were found on their mating surfaces.

Subsequent to the incident, Boeing revised its 717 Dispatch Deviation Guide (DDG). The revised DDG included that maintenance would have to verify that "no more than one Thrust Reverser Proximity Sensor indicates Open" and that operators verify that the thrust reverser unlock indication is not present and red lockout pins are present on the inoperative reverser.

Subsequent to the incident, Boeing revised its Flight Crew Operating Manual (FCOM) procedure for REVERSER DEPLOYED OR U/L OR REV DISPLAYED IN FLIGHT. A step was added to the FCOM to land at the nearest suitable airport.

Subsequent to the incident the overcenter links were redesigned. Boeing and the thrust reverser manufacturer issued service bulletins (SB) to retrofit the existing engines with the new link's design change, the link's associated hardware, and rub plates. Airplanes in production will incorporate the SB items as a production change.

An excerpt from Boeing's SB 717-78-004 stated:

Operators have reported five instances of thrust reversers failing to
deploy and ten instances of side beam gouging. Inspections revealed
that gouging had occurred between the over center link bolts and
side beam assembly. One recent event resulted in a relatively new
thrust reverser having side beam gouging so deep, it required a
doubler to restore airworthiness. Rohr Incorporated Service
Bulletin R715.78-008 provides instructions to modify the thrust
reverser actuation system. The purpose of modifying the thrust
reverser actuation system is to minimize the possibility of
gouging and inadvertent in-flight thrust reverser deployment.
procedures given in this service bulletin.

An excerpt from Rohr, Inc.'s SB R715.78-008 said:

Based upon field experience and test data, it has been found
necessary to introduce a number of thrust reverser actuation
system improvements. This group of improvements will
result in a better-functioning, more durable, more reliable thrust
reverser actuation system.
NOTE: This Service Bulletin provides terminating action
for ALERT Service Bulletin R715.78-A008.

Install rub plates on the outboard surfaces of the side beams.
Install new overcenter links (prevent in flight deployment)
(greasable bearings).
Install new overcenter link attach hardware (improve side beam
clearance and provide lubrication facility).
Modify the thrust reverser actuators.
Modify deflector door seal retainers (lower profile for better deflector
door overstow).

Parties to the investigation were Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration, and Trans World Airlines.

Boeing reported that the Boeing and Goodrich service bulletins were completed for the entire fleet including stored aircraft by December 2003.

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