Reflective Beads Embedded In Paint Damage At Least Ten
It was an innocuous little paint job
-- restriping the taxiways and runway at Seattle's Boeing Field.
But it went very wrong and the damage could cost upwards of $50
The tiny reflective beads embedded in the paint apparently came
loose and were sucked into the engines of several 737s, as well as
the last 757 ever produced, according to the Seattle Times. At
least 10 737 engines have had to be replaced as a result.
The tiny glass beads, about the size of a grain of sugar, are
used to create a reflective environment at night and under IFR
conditions. The paint was laid down on December 3rd. Shortly after
that, Boeing told Airport Director Bob Burke that flakes of paint
and glass beads were found on the landing gear of a 737 which had
operated from Boeing Field.
Burke promptly sent out work crews, who, according to the Times,
spent three days and some 300 hours of machine time sweeping the
runway and taxiways for FOD. No luck.
"We found nothing. We gave it a clean bill of health," Burke
told the Times.
But last Monday, Boeing workers said they had found those little
glass beads embedded in a 737 engine (file photo of aircraft type,
So Burke and company went back out onto the field, where they
found beads separating from the paint on one stretch of taxiway
"We don't know why," Burke told the paper. "We were at a loss to
figure out what was going on. We made the decision to take the
There's nothing special about the paint used at Boeing field,
which records some 900 flight operations a day. In fact, the
problem is something of a mystery, albeit an expensive one.
"The process that they use for
painting taxiways and runways is the same process they use
nationwide," FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer told the Times. "We're
trying to figure out why things were ingested here and we haven't
seen it anywhere else."
But the damage has apparently been done to those 737 engines, as
well as one from the last production model 757. Boeing says the ten
737 engines will probably have to be replaced at a cost of $5
Boeing spokesman Peter Conte said there was no safety issue
involving the engines. "Foreign debris in the engine can cause a
deterioration in performance over a more rapid period than would
normally occur. A customer would just find it unacceptable to take
an airplane with such a damaged engine."