Monday, 22 February 2021

Boeing calls for GLOBAL grounding of all 128 777s with same Pratt and Whitney engine that exploded mid-air over Denver: United Airlines says its 24 planes will not fly again until FAA inspection

 Boeing has called for the grounding of all 128 planes of its Boeing 777-200's that use Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines as US regulators investigate a United Airlines plane whose engine exploded and rained down debris over Denver.  

United and Japan's two main airlines - Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways - confirmed they have already suspended operations of 56 planes fitted with the same engine which disintegrated mid-flight over Colorado on Saturday. United acounts for 24 of those aircraft, while the Japanese operators have 32.

South Korea is the only other country using the same combination of a Boeing 777-200's with a Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines - although operations have not been suspended there. A further 59 of the total 128 planes are not in service.


Boeing said the aircraft should be taken out of service until the Federal Aviation Authority had determined an inspection procedure. 

'While the NTSB investigation is ongoing, we recommended suspending operations of the 69 in-service and 59 in-storage 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines,' the company said. 

Pratt & Whitney said it was 'actively co-ordinating' with planemakers and federal regulators after the FAA called for emergency inspections, adding that it had dispatched a team to work with investigators looking at what went wrong on Saturday's flight.  

In a separate blow to Pratt & Whitney, which is one of the three major players in the aircraft engine market along with General Electric and Britain's Rolls-Royce, another of its engines was involved in a similar incident in the Netherlands on Sunday which saw a Boeing 747 freighter drop debris onto a Dutch town, injuring two people. 

United Airlines said late Sunday it will immediately halt all flights by its fleet of 24 Boeing 777 airplanes with the same type of engine involved in Saturday's emergency landing in Denver.

The airline said it will continue discussions with US regulators 'to determine any additional steps that are needed to ensure these aircraft meet our rigorous safety standards and can return to service'.

It came after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it would require stepped-up inspections of 777 aircraft with Pratt & Whitney PW4000 series engines after the right engine failure on United Flight 328.   

In a statement released Sunday evening, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said: 'After consulting with my team of aviation safety experts about yesterday's engine failure aboard a Boeing 777 airplane in Denver, I have directed them 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.

'This will likely mean that some airplanes will be removed from service,' he added. 

Dickson said that his team has 'reviewed all available safety data following yesterday's incident,' and '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'. 

According to Dickson, the FAA 'is working closely with other civil aviation authorities to make this information available to affected operators in their jurisdictions'. 

He said his team will be meeting with Pratt & Whitney and Boeing 'to finalize the details of the Airworthiness Directive and any accompanying service bulletins to ensure that the appropriate airplanes are included in the order'. 


United Airlines said late Sunday it will immediately halt all flights by its fleet of 24 Boeing 777 airplanes with the same type of engine involved in Saturday's emergency landing in Denver. Pictures taken from the ground show the jet's engine on fire and trailing smoke on Saturday

United Airlines said late Sunday it will immediately halt all flights by its fleet of 24 Boeing 777 airplanes with the same type of engine involved in Saturday's emergency landing in Denver. Pictures taken from the ground show the jet's engine on fire and trailing smoke on Saturday 

The announcement came after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it would require stepped-up inspections of 777 aircraft with Pratt & Whitney PW4000 series engines after the right engine failure on United Flight 328

The announcement came after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it would require stepped-up inspections of 777 aircraft with Pratt & Whitney PW4000 series engines after the right engine failure on United Flight 328 


Meanwhile, Japan has requested airlines avoid using Boeing 777 planes with Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines for take-offs, landings and overflights in its territory until further notice, the Japan Aeronautical Service Information Center said.

Japan said on Sunday that 32 passenger jets that use the same family of engine as the Boeing 777 involved in the Denver incident have been grounded. 

The planes affected by the order from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, are 13 aircraft operated by Japan Airlines. 

The other 19 planes are operated by All Nippon Airways. None of the planes are scheduled to fly on Monday. 

Japan Airlines had a similar incident occur in December 2020 after the crew requested to make an emergency landing nine minutes after taking off. The plane returned safely to Naha with none of the 178 passengers and 11 crew injured.  

Officials said at the time that the left engine experienced a malfunction at approximately 16,000-17,000 feet. 

Both announcements occurred just 24 hours after the United Airlines plane suffered catastrophic engine failure shortly after take-off.

The Boeing 777-200 aircraft, carrying 231 passengers and 10 crew on board, was heading to Honolulu on Saturday from Denver International Airport when debris struck the plane's right engine, causing it to erupt into flames.

The captain had been giving an announcement over the intercom when a large explosion rocked the cabin, accompanied by a bright flash.

Passengers recalled their horror as they looked out the window to see engine casing and chunks of fiberglass falling from the plane, and thick black smoke emanating from the wing.

The incident forced the pilot to attempt an emergency landing back in Denver just 20 minutes after take-off, at around 1.30pm local time.

Video recorded aboard Flight UA328 captured the moment it touched back down on the runway safely, prompting the cabin to erupt in applause and cheers of relief.

Remarkably, there were no injuries reported either on board the flight or on the ground.

Terrified United Airlines passengers clapped in relief as their flight touched down safely in Denver on Saturday after suffering catastrophic engine failure
Remarkably, there were no injuries reported either on board the flight or on the ground

Terrified United Airlines passengers clapped in relief as their flight touched down safely in Denver on Saturday after suffering catastrophic engine failure

Video recorded by passengers aboard Flight UA328, which was carrying 231 travelers and 10 crew members, shows the engine on fire

Video recorded by passengers aboard Flight UA328, which was carrying 231 travelers and 10 crew members, shows the engine on fire


Aviation safety experts said the plane, a 26-year-old 777, appeared to have suffered an uncontained and catastrophic engine failure.

Such an event is extremely rare and happens when huge spinning discs inside the engine suffer some sort of failure and breach the armored casing around the engine that is designed to contain the damage, said John Cox, an aviation safety expert and retired airline pilot who runs an aviation safety consulting firm called Safety Operating Systems.

Pilots practice how to deal with such an event frequently and would have immediately shut off anything flammable in the engine, including fuel and hydraulic fluid, using a single switch.

In a statement to DailyMail.com, United said: 'Flight 328 from Denver to Honolulu experienced an engine failure shortly after departure, returned safely to Denver and was met by emergency crews as a precaution.

'We ensured our customers were comfortable and cared for at Denver International Airport while we prepared another aircraft to get them to Honolulu.

'Those who did not wish to travel with us were provided hotel accommodations. We will continue to work with federal agencies investigating this incident.'

The airline declined to identify the pilot when pressed by DailyMail.com. Boeing, meanwhile, said its technical advisers would assist the NTSB with its investigation.

Former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall called the incident another example of 'cracks in our culture in aviation safety (that) need to be addressed'.

Hall, who was on the board from 1994 to 2001, has criticized the FAA over the past decade as 'drifting toward letting the manufacturers provide the aviation oversight that the public was paying for'. 

Prior to landing safely, large chunks of debris had fallen from the plane on the Denver suburbs below, narrowly missing homes and other buildings. 

Flames could be seen coming from the engine of the plane after it exploded at 15,000 feet

Flames could be seen coming from the engine of the plane after it exploded at 15,000 feet 

The Broomfield Police Department posted photos on Twitter showing large, circular pieces of debris leaning against a house in the suburb about 25 miles north of Denver

The Broomfield Police Department posted photos on Twitter showing large, circular pieces of debris leaning against a house in the suburb about 25 miles north of Denver 

Cops in Broomfield responded to reports of objects falling from the sky on Saturday afternoon and saw huge metal objects in front lawns

Cops in Broomfield responded to reports of objects falling from the sky on Saturday afternoon and saw huge metal objects in front lawns

Passenger David Delucia recalled for the Denver Post how he grabbed his wife's hand after hearing the explosion, telling her: 'We're done for.'

'The plane started shaking violently, and we lost altitude and we started going down,' Delucia, who sat directly across the aisle from the side with the failed engine, said. 

'When it initially happened, I thought we were done. I thought we were going down. I thought we were going to die at one point,' he said, adding that he and his wife took their wallets containing their driver's licences and put them in their pockets so that 'in case we did go down, we could be ID'd'.

In an audio recording, a United pilot could be heard making a mayday call to air traffic control.

'Mayday, aircraft just experienced engine failure, need to turn immediately,' the pilot said, according to audio from the monitoring website liveatc.net that was reviewed by Reuters.

Denver resident Kirby Klements was inside his home with his wife when they heard a huge booming sound.

A few seconds later, the couple saw a massive piece of debris fly past their window and into the bed of Klements' truck, crushing the cab and pushing the vehicle into the dirt. 

This image provided by KCNC-TV in Denver shows the damage done when debris fell through the roof and into the kitchen of a home in Broomfield, Colorado on Saturday

This image provided by KCNC-TV in Denver shows the damage done when debris fell through the roof and into the kitchen of a home in Broomfield, Colorado on Saturday

Pieces of the aircraft landed on a football field as seen in the above image posted to Twitter by a local resident in Broomfield

Pieces of the aircraft landed on a football field as seen in the above image posted to Twitter by a local resident in Broomfield

Police in Broomfield released this photo showing debris from the United Airlines aircraft strewn across a football field

Police in Broomfield released this photo showing debris from the United Airlines aircraft strewn across a football field


He estimated the circular engine cowling at 15 feet in diameter. Fine pieces of the fiberglass insulation used in the airplane engine fell from the sky 'like ash' for about 10 minutes, he said, and several large chunks of insulation landed in his backyard.

'If it had been 10 feet different, it would have landed right on top of the house,' he said in a phone interview with AP. 'And if anyone had been in the truck, they would have been dead.'

The Broomfield Police Department posted photos on Twitter showing large, circular pieces of debris leaning against a house in the suburb about 25 miles north of Denver.

Additional debris was found scattered across turf field at Commons Park as well as the Northmoor and Red Leaf sections of Broomfield.

The department has urged locals not to move any debris they might find, saying they want 'all debris to remain in place for investigation'.

Broomfield is a suburb about 25 miles north of Denver. Tyler Thal, who lives in the area, said he was out for a walk with his family when he noticed a large commercial plane flying unusually low and took his phone out to film it.

'While I was looking at it, I saw an explosion and then the cloud of smoke and some debris falling from it,' he said.

'It was just like a speck in the sky and as I'm watching that, I'm telling my family what I just saw and then we heard the explosion. The plane just kind of continued on and we didn't see it after that.'

The image above shows smoke emanating from the damaged engine on the left

The image above shows smoke emanating from the damaged engine on the left


One local resident, Kieran Cain, told CNN he was with his children at a nearby elementary school when the aircraft flew over. Seconds later, they heard a loud explosion.

'We saw it go over, we heard the big explosion, we looked up, there was black smoke in the sky,' Cain told CNN.

'Debris started raining down, which you know, sort of looked like it was floating down and not very heavy, but actually now looking at it, It's giant metal pieces all over the place.

'I was surprised that the plane sort of continued on uninterrupted, without really altering its trajectory or doing anything,' he said.

'It just kind of kept going the way it was going as if nothing happened.'

One man who said he was a passenger on the flight tweeted: 'I'm on #UA328, pilots did an amazing job because it was loud, shaking, and scary as hell back here. Fire crews have us out on the tarmac.'

Another passenger, Travis Loock, told CNN that he heard a boom about 20 minutes into the flight.

'There was a big boom and the kind of sound you don't want to hear when you're on the airplane,' said Loock, who was flying with his wife.

'And I instantly put my shade up, and I was pretty frightened to see... the engine on my side was missing.'

'We were just glad we weren't over the ocean, because that's where we were heading,' he said.

Loock told CNN that while fear was palpable on board, everyone was 'very calm' when the explosion took place.

'A lot of people couldn't see the engine on that side, right, so I was a little more freaked out because I could see it, and I knew that was not right,' he said.

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