Boeing confirms grounding of all 777s with same engine as plane that shed debris over Denver

WASHINGTON: A total of 128 Boeing 777 aircraft using the same Pratt & Whitney engine which failed on a flight out of Denver have now been grounded, a spokeswoman for the giant US planemaker confirmed on Monday (Feb 22).

“I have just had confirmation that all the 777s equipped with this engine have been grounded,” she said in a text message to AFP. 

As well as United Airlines, the PW4000 engine type was also used by Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) Japan Airlines (JAL) groups, plus South Korea’s Asiana Airlines.

In response to CNA’s queries, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said that its Singapore registered Boeing 777 aircraft do not use this engine type.

“Our Singapore registered B777-200/300 are installed with Rolls Royce Trent 800 and B777-300ER installed with GE90 engines. We do not have B777 installed with the PW4077 engines,” said Mr Alan Foo, CAAS’ acting senior director for the Safety Regulation Group.

Singapore Airlines said it does not operate the type of aircraft involved in the incident.

“We wish to advise that Singapore Airlines does not operate Boeing 777-200s, which is the aircraft type involved in the Denver incident,” the airline said.

READ: Japan requests airlines avoid Boeing 777 with certain engines as US aviation authority issues new directive

In a statement Sunday, Boeing had recommended that all the aircraft concerned should be grounded as US regulators investigated a United Airlines flight that was forced to return to Denver airport after one of its engines caught fire and fell apart over a suburban American community.

A video shot from inside the aircraft – which had 231 passengers and 10 crew onboard – showed the right engine ablaze and wobbling on the wing of the Boeing 777-200.

Its front cowling – which landed in the front yard of a house, missing it by inches, was entirely missing as the aircraft returned to Denver airport.

There were no injuries on the plane or on the ground, authorities said.

Debris from a United Airlines plane's failed engine landed in a yard in Broomfield, Colorado,

Debris from a United Airlines plane’s failed engine landed in a yard in Broomfield, Colorado, outside Denver, on Feb 20, 2021. (Photo: AFP/-)

The US National Transportation and Safety Board is also investigating the incident.

Boeing had warned that similarly fitted planes 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.

JAL and ANA earlier said they had respectively grounded 13 and 19 planes using PW4000 engines but had avoided flight cancellations by using other aircraft.

The Japanese transport ministry said it had ordered stricter inspections of the engine after a JAL 777 plane flying from Haneda to Naha experienced trouble with “an engine in the same family” in December.

United said it had voluntarily removed 24 Boeing 777 planes from service and expected “only a small number of customers to be inconvenienced”.

South Korea’s transport ministry said it had no immediate plans to ground planes, adding it was monitoring the situation.

But Korean Air, the country’s largest airline and flag carrier, said it had grounded all six of its Boeing 777s with PW4000 engines currently in operation.

“We have decided to ground all our PW 4000 powered 777s, and we expect the FAA’s updated protocol soon,” the company told AFP in an emailed statement.

READ: Japan requests airlines avoid Boeing 777 with certain engines as US aviation authority issues new directive

The FAA had earlier ordered extra inspections of some passenger jets.

Steve Dickson, the head of the regulator, said he had consulted with experts and that some airplanes would “likely” be removed from service.

“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,” he said in a statement.

Dickson added that a preliminary safety data review pointed to a need for additional checks of the jet engine’s fan blades, which were unique to the engine model and only used on 777 planes.

Officials from the FAA were meeting with Pratt & Whitney and Boeing representatives on Sunday evening, he added.


Flight UA328 had been headed from Denver to Honolulu when it experienced an engine failure shortly after departure.

Residents in the Denver suburb of Broomfield found large pieces of the plane scattered around their community.

Residents inspect damage from debris fallen from a United Airlines airplane's engine in

Residents inspect damage from debris fallen from a United Airlines airplane’s engine in Broomfield, outside Denver, Colorado, on Feb 20, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Chet Strange)

The engine failure marks a fresh blow for Boeing after several high-profile aviation accidents.

The manufacturer’s 737 MAX was grounded worldwide in March 2019 after 346 people died in two crashes – the 2018 Lion Air disaster in Indonesia and an Ethiopian Airlines crash the following year.

Investigators said a main cause of both crashes was a faulty flight handling system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.

Boeing was forced to revamp the system and implement new pilot training protocols.

The 737 MAX was a big hit with airlines, becoming Boeing’s fastest-selling aircraft until its grounding, which has now been lifted.

After the COVID-19 crisis decimated demand, airlines cancelled hundreds of orders for the plane.

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