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Adventures in Civil Aviation

United, Japanese airlines temporarily grounding certain Boeing 777s following engine rupture, FAA order

Boeing on Sunday told airliners using its wide-body 777 aircraft equipped with Pratt & Whitney PW4000-112 engines to ground those planes pending a review by the Federal Aviation Administration. The decision followed an engine explosion Saturday on a Hawaii-bound United Airlines flight from Denver and an FAA order Sunday to immediately inspect all similar 777s. Boeing said there are 128 of the affected jets, 69 of which are currently in service.

United has 24 of those active 777s with Pratt & Whitney engines, while Japan Airlines has 13 and All Nippon Airways has 19. The Japan Civil Aviation Bureau, like the FAA, had ordered the airlines to ground all 777 aircraft with the specified engines made by Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, and the airlines had agreed.

United Flight 328 made an emergency landing at Denver International Airport on Saturday after one of its engines blew apart, dropping pieces of its casing over suburban Broomfield, Colorado. The plane, with 231 passengers and 10 crew, landed safely and there was property damage but no injuries reported in Broomfield. Video from the flight shows the stripped engine in flames and appear to show at least one of the engine blades broken.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said Sunday that inspectors have preliminarily "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." The National Transportation Safety Board, in a separate statement, said to of the engines fan blades were fractured and the others "exhibited damage." The FAA is meeting with Boeing and Pratt & Whitney to discuss the situation.

"The engine failure Saturday followed at least two similar incidents involving the same aircraft type and family of engines in recent years," The Wall Street Journal reports, including a Japan Airlines Flight in December in which an engine failure was tied to missing and damaged fan blades, and a February 2018 United flight to Hawaii.