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FAA orders inspections of Boeing 777s after engine failure on United flight

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Residents take photos of debris that fell from the engine of a United Airlines aircraft in the Broomfield neighborhood outside of Denver, Colorado on February 20, 2021. A United Airlines flight suffered a fiery engine failure shortly after taking off from Denver on Feb. 20 en route to Hawaii, where massive debris is falling on a residential area before a safe emergency landing, officials said.

Chet Strange | AFP | Getty Images

United Airlines announced on Sunday that 24 of its Boeing 777s will be temporarily decommissioned after one of the aircraft suffered an engine failure over the weekend.

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration announced on Sunday that the agency would order the inspection of some Boeing 777 jetliners powered by the same Pratt and Whitney engine, the PW4000.

The Japanese aviation authority has ordered airlines to suspend flights from aircraft with this type of engine until further notice, according to the FAA. United is the only US airline with this type of engine in its fleet, the agency added.

United Flight 328, a Boeing 777-200 bound for Honolulu, landed at Denver International Airport shortly after take-off on Saturday afternoon after the right engine failed.

No one was injured in the flight, which carried 229 passengers and 10 crew members, but debris, including part of the engine cover, fell in nearby Broomfield, Colorado.

Federal investigators said their initial investigation found two of the correct motor’s fan blades were broken.

The National Transportation Safety Board said one of the engine’s fan blades broke near its root, while another broke halfway. Other engine fan blades were also damaged, the NTSB said in an initial report late Sunday.

“We checked all available safety data after yesterday’s incident. Based on the initial information, we concluded that the inspection interval for the hollow fan blades, which applies only to this engine model, which is only used in Boeing 777 aircraft, has been extended should be, “FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement.

United has another 28 of these aircraft in its fleet that are currently in storage. Airlines parked or retired dozens of planes after demand plummeted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The aircraft are also used in Japan and South Korea.

Engine makers Pratt and Whitney, a unit of Raytheon Technologies, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“While the NTSB investigation is ongoing, we have recommended that the 69 operational and 59 in-store 777s with Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines be ceased until the FAA determines the appropriate inspection protocol,” Boeing said in a statement .

United operates 44 other Boeing 777s powered by General Electric engines.

Similar incidents

Such incidents are rare but have occurred in recent years.

In February 2018, another United Airlines 777-200, equipped with Pratt and Whitney PW4077 engines, suffered an engine failure over the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii after a fan blade broke. This comes from an NTSB report published in June. The flight made it safely to Honolulu with 364 passengers and 10 crew members.

In April 2018, a passenger was killed when a fan blade broke off the engine of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737, broke a window and briefly sucked the passenger outside.

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Robert Dunfee