Airlines grounded dozens of older Boeing 777 aircraft after the failure of a Pratt & Whitney engine showered debris into a Denver suburb and prompted US regulators to order emergency inspections.
United Airlines halted operations of 24 of its planes in the wake of the incident involving one of its fleet over the weekend, after the US Federal Aviation Administration ordered fan-blade checks on PW4077 engines. Japan’s transport ministry grounded planes with the engine variant on Monday, while Korean Air Lines and Asiana Airlines idled theirs.
The scare comes at a sensitive time for the global aviation industry, which is trying to emerge from a year in crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on travel. For Pratt, the United incident came on the same day as a separate emergency in the Netherlands on a 747 cargo jet using the same family of engines. Boeing is only just dusting itself off from the nearly two-year grounding of its best-selling 737 Max jet following fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia.
Two fan blades were fractured on the United flight, the National Transportation Safety Board said. Most of the destruction was contained to the engine and the plane suffered only minor damage.
While the Denver event doesn’t suggest broader problems with the 777, a twin-engine wide-body plane typically used on intercontinental routes, it adds another urgent issue to Boeing’s to-do list just after the 737 Max was cleared to fly again in markets including the US and Europe.
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