United Airlines says it is grounding 24 of its Boeing 777 aircraft after one of its jets suffered engine failure after take-off on Saturday. The plane, carrying 231 passengers and 10 crew, was forced to return to Denver airport. No injuries were reported. Debris from the jet was found scattered over a nearby residential area.
In response to the incident, Japan has asked all airlines using Boeing 777s with the same Pratt & Whitney 4000 engine to avoid its airspace. Boeing said it supported Japan’s decision and has recommended suspending operations of all 777s with the same engine while an investigation into the incident continues. The manufacturer says there are 69 Boeing 777s currently in service worldwide with this engine.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), United is the only US airline flying such planes, with the others being in Japan and South Korea. United Flight 328, bound for Honolulu, suffered a failure in its right-hand engine, the FAA said.
The agency has ordered extra inspections of Boeing 777 jets fitted with the Pratt & Whitney 4000 engine following the incident. “We reviewed all available safety data following yesterday’s incident,” said FAA administrator Steve Dickson in a statement.
“Based on the initial information, we concluded that the inspection interval should be stepped up for the hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine, used solely on Boeing 777 airplanes.”
The FAA is meeting representatives from the engine firm and Boeing.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s initial finding is that most of the damage occurred in the right engine, where two fan blades were fractured and other blades also impacted. The main body of the aeroplane suffered only minor damage. Passengers onboard the flight described a “large explosion” shortly after take-off.
“The plane started shaking violently, and we lost altitude and we started going down,” David Delucia said.
He added that he and his wife placed their wallets in their pockets so that “in case we did go down, we could be ID’d”.
Police in the town of Broomfield posted pictures of what appeared to be the front of an engine casing in the front garden of a home. Other fragments were seen around the town including on a football field. No one was injured by the falling debris from the plane.
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration says it is stepping up inspections of Boeing 777 airplanes equipped with certain Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines and it’s likely some will be removed from service, according to a statement from FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.
“We reviewed all available safety data following yesterday’s incident,” Dickson said, referring to the United Airlines flight that was forced to return to Denver International Airport Saturday after it suffered an engine failure shortly after takeoff.
“Based on the initial information, we concluded that the inspection interval should be stepped up for the hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine, used solely on Boeing 777 airplanes,” Dickson said.
Following the FAA announcement, United Airlines said in a statement that it is “immediately” removing 24 Boeing 777 planes that are powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engines “out of an abundance of caution.”
The 24 aircrafts are part of the 52 777s in the United fleet. The other 28 remain in storage. The move is voluntary and temporary, United said, and should only disrupt “a small number of customers.”