Following the serious incident affecting a United Airlines Boeing 777-200 last Saturday, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the British, Japanese and South Korean civil aviation offices as well as Boeing recommended the suspension of flights of all 777 powered by the PW4000 of Pratt & Whitney, the time to determine the protocol to be applied for the inspection of the reactors.
In fact, it is the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engine (reactor) equipping certain generations of the 777s which is called into question according to these entities. One hundred and twenty-eight aircraft are affected – 69 in service (including 24 at United) and 59 in storage.
On Saturday, a 777-200 of the American company United Airlines (N772UA, fifth aircraft produced in the long series of Triple Seven) took off at 12:15 (local) from Denver for Honolulu (flight 328) with 241 people on board including 10 members crew, before turning back for an emergency landing (1:30 p.m.) after an uncontrolled failure and the fire of its engine 2 (right engine). The aircraft lost many parts of its fuselage and engine throughout its flight on a residential area such as the engine cover while several blades were damaged (two of which were fractured). Fortunately, the incident did not cause any injuries, neither on board the plane nor on the ground where the debris fell.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was tasked with investigating the circumstances of the incident. The FAA, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney and ALPA will participate. The FAA has previously recommended a reduction in overhaul intervals for the engine’s fan blades. Videos taken inside the plane and shared on social media showed the Boeing’s right engine in flames.
In the United States, United Airlines announced last night a “voluntary and temporary withdrawal from service” of its 24 Triple Septs equipped with Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engines: ” We will continue to work closely with regulators to determine additional steps, and expect only a small number of customers to be inconvenienced. “. In Japan, a directive was issued on Sunday by the authorities for all Boeing 777s equipped with these PW4000 engines. From now on they are nailed to the ground for an indefinite period. This concerns 19 aircraft from ANA (All Nippon Airways) and 13 from Japan Airlines, (JAL) all used mainly on domestic or regional flights. Already last December, a JAL 777-200ER connecting Okinawa to Tokyo had been the victim of a similar uncontained explosion, no one was injured. The JTSB (local equivalent of the American NTSB) had qualified this incident as “serious”. In the rest of the world, Asiana Airlines, Korean Air, EgyptAir and Vietnam Airlines are among the operators of the Boeing 777 / PW4000 pair.
But the spectacular United Airlines Boeing 777 incident was not the only one over the weekend. The commercial side (carrying 241 people) of the UA flight will certainly have overshadowed the similar incident in the Netherlands on Saturday that resulted in two minor injuries and damaged several cars and houses when a Longtail Aviation Boeing 747F (cargo) Jumbo carrier of the Bermuda cargo company shortly after taking off from Maastricht in the Netherlands to New York also saw debris from one of its four engines crash into a village near the airport. Two people were slightly injured (an elderly woman was injured in the head by debris, while a child burned her fingers while picking up a fallen coin). The Boeing 747 shed its fuel over the Ardennes before landing without any other problem an hour later in Liège, Belgium (Wallonia), which has a longer and safer runway. Investigations have been launched in both countries.