US orders extra inspection of some Boeing 777s after United incident

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WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Boeing Co said it recommended suspending the use of 777 jets with the same type of engine that shed debris over Denver this weekend after U.S. regulators announced extra inspections and Japan suspended their use while considering further action.

The moves involving Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines came after a United Airlines 777 landed safely at Denver International Airport on Saturday after its right engine failed.

United Airlines said on Sunday it would voluntarily and temporarily remove its 24 active planes of the type from its schedule, hours before Boeing’s announcement.

Boeing said 69 of the planes were in service and 59 were in storage.

The manufacturer recommended airlines suspend operations until U.S. regulators identified the appropriate inspection protocol.

In this photo provided by the Broomfield Police Department on Twitter, debris is scattered in the front yard of a house at near 13th and Elmwood, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Broomfield, Colo. A commercial airliner dropped debris in Colorado neighborhoods during an emergency landing Saturday. The Broomfield Police Department said on Twitter that the plane landed safely at Denver International Airport and that no injuries had been reported from the incident. (Broomfield Police Department via AP)

The Federal Aviation Administration FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement Sunday that based on an initial review of safety data, inspectors “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 777-200s and 777-300s affected are older and less fuel efficient than newer models and most operators are phasing them out of their fleets.

Images posted by police in Broomfield, Colorado showed significant plane debris on the ground, including an engine cowling scattered outside a home and what appeared to be other parts in a field.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said its initial examination of the plane indicated most of the damage was confined to the right engine, with only minor damage to the airplane.

It said the inlet and casing separated from the engine and two fan blades were fractured, while the remainder of the fan blades exhibited damage.

The NTSB said the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were transported to its lab in Washington for the data to be downloaded and analyzed. NTSB investigations can take up to a year or longer, although in major cases the agency generally releases some investigative material midway through the process.

Pratt & Whitney, owned by Raytheon Technologies Corp , said it was coordinating with operators and regulators to support a revised inspection interval for the engines.

United Airlines is the only U.S. operator of the planes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The other airlines using them are in Japan and South Korea, the U.S. agency said.

Japan’s transport ministry ordered Japan Airlines Co Ltd (JAL) and ANA Holdings Inc to suspend the use of 777s with P&W4000 engines while it considered whether to take additional measures.

Japan said ANA operated 19 of the type and JAL operated 13 of them.

The transport ministry said on Dec. 4, 2020, a JAL flight from Naha Airport to Tokyo International Airport returned to the airport due to a malfunction in the left engine about 100 kilometers north of Naha Airport.

That plane is the same age as the 26-year-old United Airlines plane involved in Saturday’s incident.

Korean Air Lines Co Ltd will ground six Boeing 777 jets with a certain type of engine that had been in operation, a Korean Air spokeswoman said on Monday.

In a statement Sunday evening, Boeing said it is monitoring the events related to the recent incident in Colorado.

“Boeing is actively monitoring recent events related to United Airlines Flight 328. While the NTSB investigation is ongoing, we recommended suspending operations of the 69 in-service and 59 in-storage 777s powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines until the FAA identifies the appropriate inspection protocol. 

Boeing supports the decision yesterday by the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau, and the FAA’s action today to suspend operations of 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines. We are working with these regulators as they take actions while these planes are on the ground and further inspections are conducted by Pratt & Whitney.

Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.”

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