• Wed. Feb 24th, 2021

UK bans use of some Boeing 777s following Denver engine failure


Feb 22, 2021

United Airlines flight UA328 returned to Denver International Airport with its starboard engine on fire after it called a Mayday alert (Picture: Reuters)

All Boeing 777s with the same engine as that of the plane which caught fire after take-off from Denver will be temporarily banned from entering UK airspace, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

He tweeted: ‘After issues this weekend, Boeing B777s with Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 series engines will be temporarily banned from entering the UK airspace. I will continue to work closely with the @UK-CAA to monitor the situation.’

It comes after an aeroplane made an emergency landing on Saturday after one of its engines caught fire.

Video posted on Twitter showed the engine fully engulfed in flames as the plane flew through the air. Freeze frames from different videos taken by a passenger sitting slightly in front of the engine and also posted on Twitter appeared to show a broken fan blade in the engine.

Passengers, who were headed to Honolulu, said they feared the plane would crash after an explosion and flash of light, while people on the ground saw huge chunks of the aircraft pour down, just missing one home and crushing a truck. The explosion, visible from the ground, left a trail of black smoke in the sky.

None of the 231 passengers or 10 crew were hurt, and the flight landed safely.

Boeing has already recommended that airlines ground all 777s with the type of engine that blew apart.

In response, most carriers with the planes in their fleets said they would temporarily pull them from service.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered United Airlines to step up inspections of the aircraft.

FAA administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement yesterday 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’.

Mr Dickson said that would probably mean some planes would be grounded – and Boeing said they should be until the FAA sets up an inspection regime. Japan ordered the planes out of service, according to the financial newspaper Nikkei, while noting that an engine in the same family suffered trouble in December.

Boeing said there were 69 777s with the Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines in service and another 59 in storage.

United had 24 of the planes in service. It is the only US airline with the engine in its fleet, according to the FAA.

Two Japanese airlines have another 32 that are being pulled while Asiana Airlines grounded nine, seven of which were in service, until Boeing establishes a plan to fix the problems. Korean Air said it was discussing whether to ground 16 aircraft, six of which are in service.

Boeing 777 long haul airliners operated by British Airways taxiing for take off (Picture: Getty Images)

Boeing said in a statement referring to American and Japanese regulators: ‘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.’

The engine maker said it was sending a team to work with investigators.

The emergency landing was the latest trouble for Boeing, which saw its 737 Max planes grounded for more than a year after two deadly crashes in 2019 and is suffering amid the huge reduction in air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Max planes began returning to the skies late last year – a huge boost for the aircraft maker, which lost billions during the grounding because it has been unable to deliver new planes to customers.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said that in the latest problem, two of the engine’s fan blades were fractured and the remainder of the fan blades ‘exhibited damage’. But it cautioned that it was too early to draw conclusions about what happened.

United said it will work closely with the FAA and the NTSB ‘to determine any additional steps that are needed to ensure these aircraft meet our rigorous safety standards and can return to service’.

Pieces of an airplane engine from Flight 328 sit scattered in a neighbourhood on February 20 (Picture: Getty)

The NTSB said the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were transported to its lab in Washington so the data can be analysed. 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.

Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said an engine in the PW4000 family suffered trouble on a Japan Airlines 777 flying to Tokyo from Naha on December 4. The airline said the plane had engine trouble after take-off and returned to Naha. An inspection showed damage to the engine case and missing fan blades, according to the airline. Stricter inspections were ordered in response.

Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways will stop operating a combined 32 planes with that engine, Nikkei reported.

More follows.

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