Incident in Colorado: all Boeing 777s equipped with the offending engine immobilized. (AFP / ERIC PIERMONT)
Part of the fleet of Boeing 777 planes, those equipped with the engine model involved in a spectacular incident on a United Airlines flight in the United States on Saturday, is now grounded around the world.
The American aircraft manufacturer had “recommended” Sunday evening the suspension of flights of the 128 aircraft concerned and a spokeswoman confirmed Monday to AFP that they were all immobilized.
The Federal Aviation Regulatory Authority (FAA) has ordered additional inspections on these Boeing 777s powered by Pratt & Withney while the United States National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) is also investigating the incident.
These regulatory agencies, like Boeing, told AFP that they will provide more information when they analyze in more detail the data of the abruptly interrupted flight.
The United Kingdom for its part decided on Monday to ban its airspace to the Boeing 777s concerned, while the Japanese Ministry of Transport said it had ordered more stringent inspections of the Pratt & Withney engine after a JAL 777 , flying from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Naha, on the island of Okinawa, experienced problems with “a related engine” in December.
According to the Egyptian daily Al Ahram, the public company Egyptair will also immobilize 4 of its Boeing 777-200 even if the latter are not equipped with the same type of Pratt & Withney engines involved in the United incident.
A Boeing 777-220 of this company, which had taken off Saturday from Denver (Colorado) for Honolulu (Hawaii) with 231 passengers and 10 crew members, suffered a spectacular failure. As the right engine caught fire, the pilots had to make an emergency U-turn.
Residents photograph the wreckage of a Boeing 777 that fell on the residential suburb of Broomfield, near Denver, on February 20, 2021 in Colorado (AFP / Chet Strange)
As the plane returned to the airport, a shower of debris, some large, fell in a residential area in Broomfield, a suburb of Denver. No one was injured on the ground, according to local authorities.
The aircraft was able to land safely at Denver airport.
– New setback –
Of the 128 grounded planes, 69 were in service: 24 at United Airlines, 13 at Japan Airlines (JAL), 19 at All Nippon Airways (ANA), 7 at Asiana and 6 at Korean Air. 59 aircraft were stored separately, the need for planes that can carry many passengers having melted since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
If the incident was not injured, it represents a new setback for Boeing, whose title lost more than 2% Monday on the stock market.
In the immediate future, we will 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 if this is a metallurgical, maintenance, manufacturing or operational problem, it will take some time,” he added.
Debris from a Boeing fell in the residential suburb of Broomfield, near Denver, after an in-flight engine fire on February 20, 2021 in Colorado (AFP / Chet Strange)
Above all, the incident comes as Boeing is barely recovering from the crisis of the 737 MAX, the flagship aircraft of the manufacturer which was grounded in May 2019 after two close-knit accidents that killed 346.
After nearly two years of a ban, a modification of the flight control software and the implementation of new pilot training protocols, the 737 MAX was recently cleared again for flight.
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.
The Dutch authorities also announced Monday the opening of two investigations after the fall two days earlier of debris from a Boeing 747-400 cargo plane, which injured two people in the south of the Netherlands.
The 777 incident is more of a maintenance or engine problem than the design itself, say several experts. In service for over 25 years without a major accident, the aircraft “has a very solid reputation,” said Michel Merluzeau.
bur-wat-jum / lo / rle
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