This Saturday photo shows United Airlines Flight 328 approaching Denver International Airport, after experiencing “a right-engine failure” shortly after takeoff from Denver. (Hayden Smith via AP)

This Saturday photo shows United Airlines Flight 328 approaching Denver International Airport, after experiencing “a right-engine failure” shortly after takeoff from Denver. (Hayden Smith via AP)

Boeing: 777s with engine that blew apart should be grounded

Video showed the engine fully engulfed in flames as the plane flew through the air.

Associated Press

Boeing has recommended that airlines ground all 777s with the type of engine that blew apart after takeoff from Denver this weekend, and most carriers with the planes in their fleets said they would temporarily pull them from service.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ordered United Airlines to step up inspections of the aircraft after one of its flights made an emergency landing at Denver International Airport on Saturday as pieces of the casing of the engine, a Pratt & Whitney PW4000, rained down on suburban neighborhoods. None of the 231 passengers or 10 crew were hurt, and the flight landed safely, authorities said. United is among the carriers that has grounded the planes.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement Sunday that based on an initial review of safety data, inspectors “concluded that the inspection interval should be stepped up for the hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine, used solely on Boeing 777 airplanes.”

Dickson said that would likely mean some planes would be grounded — and Boeing said they should be until the FAA sets up an inspection regime. Japan ordered the planes out of service, according to the financial newspaper Nikkei, while noting that an engine in the same family suffered trouble in December.

Boeing said there were 69 Boeing 777s with the Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines in service and another 59 in storage.

United had 24 of the planes in service; it is the only U.S. airline with the engine in its fleet, according to the FAA. Two Japanese airlines have another 32 that are being pulled while Asiana Airlines grounded nine, seven of which were in service, until Boeing establishes a plan to fix the problems. Korean Air said it was discussing whether to ground 16 aircraft, six of which are in service.

“We are working with these regulators as they take actions while these planes are on the ground and further inspections are conducted by Pratt & Whitney,” Boeing said in a statement issued Sunday, referring to American and Japanese regulators.

The engine maker said it was sending a team to work with investigators.

The emergency landing this past weekend is the latest trouble for Boeing, which saw its 737 Max planes grounded for more than a year after two deadly crashes in 2019 and is suffering amid the huge reduction in air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Max planes began returning to the skies late last year — a huge boost for the aircraft maker, which lost billions during the grounding because it has been unable to deliver new planes to customers.

Video posted on Twitter from Saturday’s emergency showed the engine fully engulfed in flames as the plane flew through the air. Freeze frames from different video taken by a passenger sitting slightly in front of the engine and also posted on Twitter appeared to show a broken fan blade in the engine.

Passengers, who were headed to Honolulu, said they feared the plane would crash after an explosion and flash of light, while people on the ground saw huge chunks of the aircraft pour down, just missing one home and crushing a truck. The explosion, visible from the ground, left a trail of black smoke in the sky.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said that two of the engine’s fan blades were fractured and the remainder of the fan blades “exhibited damage.” But it cautioned that it was too early to draw conclusions about what happened.

United says it will work closely with the FAA and the NTSB “to determine any additional steps that are needed to ensure these aircraft meet our rigorous safety standards and can return to service.”

The NTSB said the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were transported to its lab in Washington so the data can be analyzed. NTSB investigations can take up to a year or longer, although in major cases the agency generally releases some investigative material midway through the process.

Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said an engine in the PW4000 family suffered trouble on a Japan Airlines 777 flying to Tokyo from Naha on Dec. 4. The airline has said the plane had engine trouble after takeoff and returned to Naha. An inspection showed damage to the engine case and missing fan blades, according to the airline. Stricter inspections were ordered in response.

Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways will stop operating a combined 32 planes with that engine, Nikkei reported.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

The first flight for United Airlines servicing Paine Field taxis to the gate on March 31, 2019. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
Come October, United Airlines will discontinue flights at Paine Field

The airline is one of two commercial carriers at the Everett airport. United flies to Denver.

Community leaders and officials break ground at the Port of Everett's Norton Terminal at the former Kimberly-Clark mill site along the waterfront Thursday morning in Everett on July 15, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Legacy of pollution makes Everett port project ‘challenging’

The former Kimberly-Clark mill site is nearing the end of a complex cleanup, part of a $36 million terminal project.

sandwich with ham, tomatoes, lettuce and toast isolated on white background, healthy breakfast, lunch
You voted: The best darn sandwich in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, people have their favorites

FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2019, file photo, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at a news conference in Seattle. Washington state sued Johnson & Johnson on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, claiming the company was negligent when it used deceptive marketing to say the drugs were effective for treating pain and were unlikely to cause addiction. The lawsuit filed Thursday says the company that supplies raw materials used to make opiates drove the pharmaceutical industry to recklessly expand the production of the drugs. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Washington AG rejects opioids settlement, wants trial

The proposal would pay Washington about $527.5 million over 18 years if cities and counties opt in.

This photo provided by Blue Origin,   Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, exits the  Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule after it parachuted safely down to the launch area with passengers Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk, near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.  (Blue Origin via AP)
Blue Origin’s Bezos reaches space on 1st passenger flight

The Amazon founder is the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft.

FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2020 file photo, a motorcyclist cruises past the Renton, Wash., Boeing plant where 737's are built. Boeing is temporarily lowering its delivery target for the 787 Dreamliner after discovering additional work that will need to be performed on the aircraft. The company said Tuesday, July 13, 2021, that the 787 production rate will temporarily be lower than five per month and will gradually return to that rate. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP, File)
Boeing cuts production on the 787 to address a new flaw

The problem is on the forward pressure bulkhead, which keeps the plane’s interior pressurized.

State makes low interest loans available to small businesses

The state Department of Commerce is partnering with financial institutions and community-based organizations.

Commercial center taking shape off Highway 9 in Lake Stevens

A bowling alley? Maybe. Potential tenants are showing interest and locals have their own wish list.

Wil Peterson is a cashier at Fred Meyer in Everett, but won't receive the temporary $4 per hour hazard pay increase that many grocery workers in unincorporated Snohomish County will receive.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Geography defines who gets grocery hazard pay — and who doesn’t

The county required at least eight grocery stores to temporarily boost pay in unincorporated areas.

Jessica Ward runs a stacker at Hampton Mill on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 in Darrington, Wash. The mill is asking for more trees from Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Hampton Lumber makes big purchase for small-town Darrington

The town’s largest employer acquired 145,000 acres of timber land from Weyerhaeuser.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Arlington and Marysville trade open space for local jobs

Light-industrial development is transforming the farms and fields where the two cities join.

In this photo taken Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, the French-style inspired main building of the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery is seen in Woodinville, Wash. Washington, which now boasts more than 1,000 wineries in the state, has become a force in the wine industry. Washington is the second-largest producer of premium wines in the United States, trailing only California. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Washington wine giant Ste. Michelle sold for $1.2 billion

The seller, the tobacco company Altria, will shift its focus to noncombustible nicotine products.