US aerospace giant Boeing has asked airlines to halt the flights of its wide-body 777 aircraft equipped with a type of engine that broke apart during a flight over the weekend near Denver. The US Federal Aviation Administration has also ordered immediate inspections of those jets.
The aviation regulators in the US and Japan acted immediately after multiple incidents were reported regarding the Pratt & Whitney engines, which currently power around 128 Boeing 777 jets. Boeing was forced to order the airlines to stop flying these planes.
The mid-air fire incident with one of the United Airlines flights on Saturday (February 20) was the third such failure for this engine type in recent years.
The UK became the latest country on February 22 to ban Boeing 777 flights with Pratt & Whitney series engines from entering the nation’s airspace. The US and Japan had already grounded dozens of aircraft after the incident.
“Starting immediately and out of an abundant caution, we are voluntarily and temporarily removing 24 Boeing 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 series from our schedule,” said a statement from the United Airlines on Sunday.
The US aviation safety investigators have been working to try to find the probable cause for the engine failure, which happened shortly after the Honolulu-bound United Airlines plane took off, forcing it to return to Denver International Airport and leaving a trail of debris scattered over a nearby town. No other airline in the US uses this engine type.
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.”
Pratt & Whitney also said it is actively coordinating with operators and regulators to support the revised inspection interval of the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines that power Boeing 777 aircraft.
The passengers on the United plane with the failed engine posted dramatic videos on social media, which showed the engine in flames with its body blown off. The incident raised concerns about aviation safety putting pressure on the airline and the aircraft manufacturer to take action.
The passengers described the feeling of an explosion in some part of the plane as it reached cruising altitude.
Boeing has faced troubles also for its 737 Max engines, which frequently reported hydraulic problems in the past years forcing the company to recall many of the planes around the world. The company has faced problems with other engines manufactured by Rolls Royce ending up spending billions in repair and recall of the planes.