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United States and Other Countries Scrutinize Boeing 777 Engines after Explosion Over Denver

The Federal Aviation Administration and other civil aviation authorities are ordering Boeing 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney engines to be grounded for additional inspection. The new scrutiny comes after one of the engines attached to a United Airlines aircraft exploded shortly after takeoff.

Boeing 777 aircraft powered by the Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engine will be grounded for the immediate future, as investigators work to determine what caused one to explode shortly after takeoff. Authorities in the United States, Japan and other nations are demanding additional engine inspections before airlines are allowed to use the aircraft once again.

Pratt & Whitney Engine Blows on United Airlines Flight 328 Boeing 777

The incident took place aboard United Airlines Flight 328, departing from Denver International Airport (DEN) on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2020. A video shared on social media shows the engine cowling and cover completely gone shortly after takeoff. The aircraft was able to safely land at DEN after the emergency, and no injuries were reported.

Afterwards, United Airlines announced they would remove all 24 Boeing 777 airframes with the engines from service until further notice. The statement coincided with an order from the Federal Aviation Administration to increase inspections on those aircraft. The Associated Press reports hours after the engine accident, agency administrator Steve Dickson said 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.” The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident, and have released preliminary photos of their investigation.

The United States is not the only country grounding Boeing 777 aircraft with the engines until further notice. Nikkei Asia reports Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is ordering 32 airframes to stay on the ground until further notice. The orders affect 13 Japan Airlines aircraft and 19 All Nippon Airways (ANA) airframes, which were voluntarily grounded by the airlines after the accident.

Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Both Pledge Support After Engine Explosion

Both the airframe manufacturer and powerplant provider are offering their support to both airlines and investigators to determine what went wrong. In a statement, Boeing said they “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.”

In their own statement, Pratt & Whitney said they are “actively coordinating with operators and regulators to support the revised inspection interval of the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines that power Boeing 777 aircraft.”

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Feature image courtesy: National Transportation Safety Board/Flickr/Public Domain