The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Sunday there must be “stepped up” inspections of Boeing 777 aircraft that contain the same engine model that failed on a United Airlines flight over Denver this weekend.
Why it matters: United, Japan’s two main airlines and Korean Air have grounded Boeing 777s with the same Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines as the jet involved in the Denver incident.
- Boeing has already been facing the twin crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fallout from two fatal 737 MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, which saw the American multinational company pay out billions of dollars in costs.
- The company said in a statement that given the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into Saturday’s incident, it “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.”
Driving the news: The United Flight 328 was carrying 231 people from Denver to Honolulu on Saturday when one of its Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines failed, causing debris to scatter across Colorado’s capital, according to the FAA.
- The plane returned to Denver International Airport and landed safety and with no injuries reported.
For the record: FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement he had directed aviation safety experts “to issue an Emergency Airworthiness Directive that would require immediate or stepped-up inspections of Boeing 777 airplanes equipped with certain Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines.”
- “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.
What they’re saying: Boeing said in its statement that it is “actively monitoring” recent events related to the incident and it supports the decision by the FAA and Japanese regulators’ order to Japan Airlines and Nippon Airways 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,” Boeing said.
United Airlines said in a statement Sunday evening, “We are voluntarily & temporarily removing 24 Boeing 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engines from our schedule.”
- The airline added that it will continue to work with federal investigators and regulators “to determine any additional steps and expect only a small number of customers to be inconvenienced.”
Pratt & Whitney said in a statement Sunday night that it has dispatched a team to work with investigators and is “actively coordinating with operators and regulators to support the revised inspection interval” of the engines.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.