Boeing urges regulatory authorities to ground 128 jets over 777 plane’s engine fire incident

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Leading airplane manufacturer Boeing Sunday, February 20 called for the grounding of 128 of its 777 planes across the world, as United States (US) industry regulators investigated a United Airlines flight whose engine caught fire and fell apart over a suburban American community.

It was learnt that United, Korean Air, and Japan’s two main airlines confirmed they had already suspended operations of 62 planes fitted with the same family of engines which scattered debris over Denver, in the US, Saturday.

The US National Transportation and Safety Board is also investigating the fire incident, in which no one was hurt, agency report said.

Boeing warned similarly fitted planes should be taken out of service until the Federal Aviation Authority had determined an inspection procedure.

The planes maker said: “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.”

Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) said they had respectively grounded 13 and 19 planes using PW4000 engines, but had avoided flight cancelations 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 2020.

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

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

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.

The company told AFP in an e-mailed stated that “we have decided to ground all our PW 4000 powered 777s, and we expect the FAA’s updated protocol soon.”

The FAA 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.

Dickson said: “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.”

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, according to FAA chief.

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

The Flight UA328, which had been headed from Denver to Honolulu in the US when it experienced an engine failure shortly after departure was considered a fresh blow for Boeing.

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

No one onboard or on the ground was injured, but the engine failure marks a fresh blow for Boeing after several high-profile aviation accidents, according to report.

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

Investigators had disclosed that 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, report added.

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