All Boeing aircraft equipped with the engine model involved in the plane fire over the Colorado River on Sunday have been grounded around the world.
All Boeing 777s equipped with the engine model involved in the spectacular jet engine fire on Sunday over Colorado in the western United States, a total of 128, were grounded in the world.
The American aircraft manufacturer had “recommended” Sunday evening suspension of flights for this type of device and a spokesperson confirmed Monday to AFP that they were immobilized.
The American company United Airlines, victim of the incident, the two large Japanese companies, JAL and ANA, as well as the South Korean air carrier Asiana Airlines also announced, Sunday and Monday, the stop of the flights of their devices.
The US Federal Aviation Regulatory Authority (FAA) has ordered additional inspections on some Boeing 777s. The US National Transportation and Safety Board is also investigating the incident, in which no one ‘was injured. The United Kingdom for its part decided on Monday to ban its airspace to Boeing 777s equipped with the engines in question.
“While the investigation is ongoing, we have recommended suspending the operations of the 69 777 aircraft in service and 59 aircraft in stock equipped with Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines,” Boeing said in a statement on Sunday.
“You have to sift through the engines that are in service to see if there are any cracks, and understand what happened,” explained Michel Merluzeau, expert from the AIR firm. “We have to determine whether it is a metallurgical, maintenance, manufacturing or operational problem, it will take some time,” he added.
A United Airlines Boeing 777-220, which had taken off Saturday from Denver (Colorado) for Honolulu (Hawaii) with 231 passengers and 10 crew members, had to turn around urgently after the fire in his right reactor. The aircraft was able to land safely at Denver Airport and none of its occupants were injured.
While the Boeing was heading back to the airport, a rain of debris, some tall, came across a residential area in Broomfield, a suburb of Denver. No one was injured on the ground, according to local authorities.
United said on Sunday it had voluntarily withdrawn 24 Boeing 777s from service and expected “only a small number of customers will be inconvenienced.” Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) also grounded 13 and 19 aircraft with PW4000 engines respectively, while avoiding flight cancellations through the use of other aircraft.
Japan’s Transport Ministry said it had ordered more stringent engine inspections after a JAL 777 aircraft flying from Tokyo Haneda Airport in Naha, on the island of Okinawa, had problems with ” an engine from the same family ”in December.
South Korea’s transport ministry said on Monday it had no plans to stop planes, but was monitoring the situation.
New blow for Boeing
But Asiana Airlines, South Korea’s second largest company, has already made the decision not to use the 7 Boeing 777s it has.
As for Korean Air, the country’s leading carrier, which initially told AFP that it had immobilized its six 777s equipped with PW4000 engines, it said it was waiting for official directives from South Korean regulators.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the head of the US Federal Aviation Regulatory Authority (FAA), Steve Dickson, said he had asked his team of aviation safety experts to issue an emergency airworthiness directive which would require immediate or in-depth inspections of Boeing 777 aircraft equipped with certain Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines.
This incident is a blow to Boeing, which is still recovering from the crisis of the 737 MAX, the flagship aircraft of the aircraft manufacturer which was grounded in May 2019 after two close accidents that killed 346. After more than 20 months of prohibition, a modification of the flight control software and the implementation of new pilot training protocols, the 737 MAX was once again cleared for flight.
Affected by the pandemic
Boeing is also, like its rival Airbus, affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and its catastrophic consequences on international air transport. This health crisis led to the cancellation of orders for hundreds of devices.
If the 777, in service for more than 25 years, “has a very solid reputation”, “this incident reminds us that these are aging fleets,” concludes Michel Merluzeau.
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