Boeing, an American aviation concern, has recommended that all airlines that have 777 aircraft with the same engine type as that of the plane that crashed on Saturday in Denver should suspend the operation of these airliners.
The concern said in a statement that all 128 aircraft of this model must be thoroughly tested before they can be operated again.
The American United Airlines and two Japanese airlines have already suspended flights of 56 aircraft with the same engine type.
Flight 328, which carried 231 passengers, was forced to make an emergency landing in Denver following an engine incident, with no injuries.
“While the investigation is underway, we recommend suspending the operation of all 69 777 aircraft in service and 59 aircraft in reserve and powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines,” the aircraft manufacturer said in a statement.
Pratt & Whitney said it has already dispatched a team of engineers to work with the investigators.
According to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), United Airlines is the only US airline to have 777 aircraft with these engines. The rest of these airliners are operated primarily by Japanese and South Korean operators.
Pratt & Whitney is not the primary supplier of engines for the Boeing 777, most of which are powered by GE90 engines from General Electric.
Korean Air has 6 such aircraft in its current fleet, with 10 more in storage. The company is awaiting instructions from their country’s regulators on how to deal with the 777.
EgyptAir, which operates four of these vehicles, said they would not take off until the engine inspection protocol was received.
The FAA ordered additional testing of all Boeing 777s powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines.
“After Saturday’s incident, we reviewed all available safety reports and, based on preliminary information, concluded that it is necessary to shorten the inspection intervals for hollow turbine blades, which are only available on this engine model, which, in turn, is equipped with only Boeing 777 aircraft.” – said FAA spokesman Steve Dixon.
On Sunday evening, a meeting was held between representatives of the FAA, the engine company and the Boeing concern.
According to preliminary data compiled by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the main damage was to the starboard engine, where two broke and several more turbine blades were damaged. The fuselage of the aircraft itself was slightly damaged.
This engine accident was another blow for Boeing after a year and a half ago, as a result of two accidents with their aircraft, 346 people died and all 737 Max aircraft were suspended from flights.
A rare but dangerous incident
BBC Business Correspondent Theo Leggett’s comment
Aircraft engines rarely break. Fortunately, the cases when the engine wreckage scatters in different directions during an accident happen even less often. But the danger of such an incident is much higher.
A modern twin-engine aircraft is designed so that it can fly safely for hours on a single engine.
However, debris from an exploding engine flying at high speed can damage other parts of the aircraft, and if they pierce the fuselage, the outcome could be fatal. According to experts, during the accident in Denver, debris was scattered, but, fortunately, the liner fuselage itself was practically not damaged.
It is also alarming that the current accident is very similar to the incident that happened with the same United Airlines in 2018.
If the cause of the accident turns out to be the same, it invariably raises the question: why the manufacturer and regulators were unable to prevent a recurrence of the emergency.
Japan has decided to temporarily close its airspace to all 777 aircraft with Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines. This implies a ban on all takeoffs, landings and flights over Japanese territory by aircraft of this model.
The country’s authorities also ordered their airlines JAL and ANA to suspend the operation of all 777 liners with this type of engine.
Britain made a similar decision on Monday.
In December last year, the JAL liner was forced to return to the airport in Naha, Okinawa due to problems with the left engine. This plane was also 26 years old – as was the Boeing of United Airlines, which crashed in Denver.
In 2018, just before landing in Honolulu, a United Airlines plane had an engine failure. According to the NTSB, the cause of the accident was a turbine blade cracked along its entire length.
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