On Saturday, a United Boeing 777 suffered severe engine damage shortly after take-off when debris from the engine “rained” in a suburb of Denver. It is important to note that while a 777 was the airplane, it had more to do with the Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engine on the airplane than the airplane itself.
United had a similar incident (at least on the surface) a few years ago and it was determined that it happened because the fan blades were weak, and Pratt & Whitney did not offer an official program for training inspectors to examine fan blades.
Well, after the incident this weekend, we’re seeing some airlines landing their 777 fleets with these engines, and some aviation authorities banning planes with these engines altogether from their airspace.
Boeing recommends running the 777 with Pratt & Whitney engines
Boeing has made the following statement which “supports” the grounding of 777s with Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines until a proper engine inspection protocol has been established:
“Boeing is actively monitoring recent events related to United Airlines Flight 328. During the NTSB investigation, we recommend that the 69 operating and 59 in-storage 777 Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines be suspended until the FAA this establishes the appropriate inspection protocol.
Boeing supports yesterday’s decision by the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau and today’s action by the FAA to cease operations on 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines. We are working with these regulators as they take action while these aircraft are on the ground and Pratt & Whitney conducts further inspections. “
A total of 69 Boeing 777s with these engines are in use worldwide and a total of 59 Boeing 777s with these engines are in stock.
While this is just a recommendation from Boeing, some aviation authorities go a step further. For example, Japanese aviation authorities have banned aircraft with these engines from Japanese airspace.
Some United 777s have Pratt & Whitney engines
United voluntarily grounds 777s with Pratt & Whitney engines
United Airlines has temporarily and voluntarily discontinued its 24 Boeing 777s powered by Pratt & Whitney engines. This equates to just under a third of the airline’s 777-200 fleet. The airline will work with regulators to pinpoint additional steps and doesn’t expect customers to experience much inconvenience.
The airlines currently have an enormous surplus of aircraft. With that in mind, the timing is at least good as United shouldn’t be fighting to find replacement aircraft. The grounded 777s are the earlier generations that are more than 15 years old, as the 777s shipped in the last few years are all General Electric motors.
United currently uses 777 primarily for flights to and from Hawaii, so we can assume that United will swap 787 on these routes for the time being.
Other airlines that operate 777s on these engines include All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Korean Air.
Some Korean Air 777s have Pratt & Whitney engines
Boeing 777s with Pratt & Whitney engines are now largely grounded after an incident on Saturday. United Airlines has voluntarily grounded its aircraft with these engines, Japan has banned aircraft with these engines and Boeing supports the cessation of operations for these aircraft.
It is now planned to develop a new inspection procedure for these engines in order to avoid a similar incident in the future. While we don’t yet know the real cause of the incident, it’s interesting that United had a similar incident in 2018 that resulted from the lack of a proper engine inspection procedure.
I’m curious whether this grounding will last a few days, a few weeks or what …