This photo shows United Airlines Flight 328 approaching Denver International Airport, after experiencing "a right-engine failure" shortly after takeoff from Denver, Colorado, on Saturday. Photo: Hayden Smith via AP
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Japan requests airlines stop using Boeing 777s with P&W4000 engines

40 Comments

U.S. regulators announced extra inspections on Boeing Co 777 jets using the same type of engine that shed debris over Denver on Saturday, while Japan went further and suspended their use while it considers what action to take.

The regulatory moves involving Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines came after a United Airlines 777 landed safely at Denver International Airport on Saturday after its right engine failed.

Japan's transport ministry ordered Japan Airlines Co Ltd (JAL) and ANA Holdings Inc to suspend the use of 777s with P&W4000 engines while it considered whether to take additional measures.

Japan said ANA operated 19 of the type and JAL operated 13 of them, though the airlines said their use had been reduced during the pandemic. JAL said its fleet was due for retirement by March 2022.

The ministry said on Dec 4, 2020, a JAL flight from Naha Airport to Tokyo International Airport returned to the airport due to a malfunction in the left engine about 100 kilometers north of Naha Airport on Okinawa.

That plane is the same age as the 26-year-old United Airlines plane involved in Saturday's incident.

United Airlines is the only U.S. operator of the planes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The other airlines using them are in Japan and South Korea, the U.S. agency said.

"We reviewed all available safety data following yesterday's incident," the FAA said in a statement. "Based on the initial information, we 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 United 777 was powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines. The plane, with 231 passengers and 10 crew on board, was heading to Honolulu when it suffered an engine failure soon after takeoff, the airline said.

There were no reports of injuries, either on the plane or the ground.

United Airlines said on Sunday it would voluntarily and temporarily remove its 24 active planes of the type from its schedule.

Images posted by police in Broomfield, Colorado showed significant plane debris on the ground, including an engine cowling scattered outside a home and what appeared to be other parts in a field. Police tape was used to cordon off the debris.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said its initial examination of the plane indicated most of the damage was confined to the right engine, with only minor damage to the airplane.

It said the inlet and casing separated from the engine and two fan blades were fractured, while the remainder of the fan blades exhibited damage.

One video taken from what appeared to be inside the United plane showed an engine on fire.

Another video on social media showed a cloud of black smoke being left by a plane.

"Something blew up," a man on the video can be heard saying.

In an audio recording, a United pilot could be heard making a mayday call to air traffic control.

"Mayday, aircraft just experienced engine failure, need to turn immediately," according to audio from the monitoring website liveatc.net which was reviewed by Reuters.

Pratt & Whitney, owned by Raytheon Technologies Corp, was not available immediately for comment.

Boeing said its technical advisers are supporting the NTSB with its investigation.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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United Airlines is the only U.S. operator of the planes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The other airlines using them are in Japan and South Korea, the U.S. agency said.

Just for clarity, other airlines, e.g. BA, flying the 777 use General Electric or Rolls Royce engines.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Also for clarity - not all of the 777's in JAL or ANA are using Pratt and Whitney engines, ANA have many more using GE engines. I believe this is just some of the older 777-200 variants.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Hope this 777 PW4000 is not the kind of blunder made by Boeing as it did on 737 MAX. There is an urgent need for further clarification to pacify the worries of airlines as well as passengers..

-13 ( +5 / -18 )

Boing really isn't doing very well, is it? Hit by the deadly disease of complacency!

-5 ( +8 / -13 )

@venzo: This variant of Engine predates the 777...its been in service in some form since 1987. It is not built by Boeing. The 737 MAX 'blunder' was a software problem. Suggest you research before posting uninformed/unhelpful comments.

9 ( +16 / -7 )

kudos to the pilots for making a safe emergency landing

18 ( +19 / -1 )

Be prepared for more of this over the next few months. Many planes were/are mothballed during the collapse of passenger demand in the Covid crisis, with varying levels of maintenance. There are many parts on a modern jet liner that can go wrong, so you'd better hope that the next plane you get on has been maintained well with no cutting of corners...

1 ( +10 / -9 )

Flying is still much safer statistically than driving.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Two of these engine blowouts yesterday.

Absolute miracle that no-one was hurt by the large chunks of metal falling from the sky. Quite right it is to ground them and inspect the engines before reaching any further decision.

Unreported though is the injuries that were* caused by another very similar uncontained engine failure yesterday over The Netherlands (Holland).

https://avherald.com/h?article=4e35302b&opt=0

Quote: "A B747-4F had an uncontained engine failure on take off, initial climb out of Maastricht airport in the Netherlands (Holland). Engine debris came down in a local village close to the airport and damaged cars and injured several people. Aircraft diverted to Luik which is over the border in Belgium."

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The most part of the flight passengers isn’t interested in details like some airplanes having that type of engine or not, or if there were software errors instead etc. If the mass hears such a thing or watches the video with an engine burning during flight and big airplane parts raining from the sky, they will simply avoid flying or at least flying with the known brands involved in the incident.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

That plane is the same age as the 26-year-old United Airlines plane involved in Saturday's incident.

My car is 17 years old now but there is no way I would keep it for 26 years!

The technology is vastly superior now to when I purchased my car-planes should be retired ata much earlier age too.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

If you maintained your car as well as a reputable airline maintains their planes, your car would still be fine after 26 years.

Whilst not taking away how serious this problem there is, there are only 69 777's flying at present with this engine. As of today, I suspect none.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Wow ! it's time to sell Boeing Stocks!

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

The fault is with the engine not the plane and it could just be that one engine. I believe the engine has hollow turbine blades which might be the cause of the problem. They crack from the inside out and not easy to detect with testing. The engines can be changed for another make.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

In this case we have to give kudos to the pilots and secondly to Boeing in this case for building an aircraft that could safely land during a catastrophic engine failure.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

Absolutely Tokyo-Engr.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Rare article here pulling together all P/W engine failures to date.

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/02/why-do-boeing-777-engines-keep-exploding.html

5 ( +5 / -0 )

For those of us living under the flight path of the new Haneda route, this is alarming. Planes are flying as I write 300 m above my apartment (South wind, 3-7 PM). Hoping that chunks of metal don't fall on my heads, or anywhere near the many schools and homes the planes are flying over.

Haneda new route should never have happened. It was introduced under the pretext of rishing tourism targets and the Olympics. Despite the massive reduction in flights since covid, the route is still in use.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

A constant stream of very low flying planes over Shinjuku station...I agree, not a good idea.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

The route is also environmentally friendly. Its hardly uncommon in other cities worldwide to have aircraft flying at these altitudes over populated areas.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I trust the most to moderately old aircrafts. Tested in all possible situations, familiar to pilots, and, as we witnessed recently, can fly with burning engines.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@theresident, no the “blunder” went much deeper than just a software problem. The software was there to try to rectify an underlying physical design fault introduced by trying to squeeze more people on board for profit. Changing the design caused the plane to be unsafe and the software was a patch to cover it up. Having said that in this case it isn’t a Boeing component that has failed and as yet we do not know wha5 caused the accident, in the circumstances it is both normal and wise to ground aircraft with this engine until we do. It’s one of the reasons flying is one of the safest forms of transport.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

As part of its over water certification, the B777 is certified to fly on one engine for 207 minutes. This flight lasted 40 minutes.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Insert "this is fine" meme

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Bits Of Engine In my Neighbour's Garden...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Boeing Boeing Gone.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

For those of us living under the flight path of the new Haneda route, this is alarming. 

This is also my concern. The government has no accountability to the people at all and has proven it at every turn.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Aviation has a general use term for this, TFOA meaning Things Falling Off Aircraft. It happens more often than you might imagine.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For those of us living under the flight path of the new Haneda route, this is alarming. 

This is also my concern. The government has no accountability to the people at all and has proven it at every turn.

So hang on a second here. Did the gub'ment force you to live proximate to the approach or departure path of an airport? Did you do due diligence before moving into your current abode? Everything is not someone else's fault. Take some responsibility for your decisions.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

My car is 17 years old now but there is no way I would keep it for 26 years!

The technology is vastly superior now to when I purchased my car-planes should be retired ata much earlier age too.

Not true. When I was a pilot in the US Navy we used to routinely retire helicopters before they hit 10,000 flight hours, thinking they were "worn out" . After leaving the Navy I went to work for a commercial helicopter operator that was flying the civil version of what I flew in the Navy. Their lowest time helicopter had 17,000 hours and their highest time helo at the time had over 50,000 hours. Fact is due to superior maintenance and maintainers who stayed with the same aircraft for a decade or more and thus knew the aircraft intimately.. That operator's helos had much tighter flight controls and vastly higher reliability than the Navy's, who were maintained by a bunch of teenagers who had little experience with their aircraft. About all they could do is swap parts and hope they fixed it. Teen age parts changers we called them. Often times their senior petty officers came from other aircraft types and didn't have a whole lot more experience on that particular aircraft than the kids fresh out of A-School. I have also once flown in a 727 owned at the time by Continental Air Micronesia that had over 50,000 hours and was a fine airplane. There was an FAA team on board who were going around to the various attolls in Micronesia with this airplane and testing their navigation aids while the airliner made it's usual scheduled runs. They were much impressed with the condition of the airplane and skill of her crew. This airplane had fenders on the landing gear and rock guards over the lights as it landed on coal runways on tiny Pacific islands. But it was very well maintained. The age of an airplane are not a meaningful measure of its airworthiness. How well maintained it is is what matters. There are B-52s flying around that were built in 1967 and the USAF expects to run those airplanes past their 80th birthdays.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As part of its over water certification, the B777 is certified to fly on one engine for 207 minutes. This flight lasted 40 minutes.

As we used to joke, "yep, flies just fine on one engine, it'll take you all the way to the scene of the crash, get you there before the fire trucks too." Gallows humor, but, well, you know .......................

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The first image I saw of this was some parts in a yard. Must admit, one of the parts looked like it would make an interesting dining table with a great back-story.

My car is 21 yrs old. Has been maintained by me all these years. I expect to have it another 10 yrs, at least. The only way I'd sell it would be if the A/C stopped working.

We were taught that airframe lifespans mainly had to do with pressure cycles and environment. B-52s aren't pressurized, so that limit doesn't exist. Provided they catch any microfractures in the skin before they "rip", it should last almost indefinitely.

The places with planes that concern me most as an aircraft designer would be pressurized jets that fly between nearby islands. Those have lots of pressure cycles and harsh sea salt environments. Just like road salt eats into our cars, it can eat into planes if not quickly removed and maintained.

I know little about Navy helicopters, but think most would be unpressurized. It has been decades since my helicopter design class and I've never even flown in one, but I vaguely recall something like 4 maintenance hours for each 1 flight hour was needed in normal conditions. Harsh conditions increased the maintenance needed. Hopefully, 30+ yrs later, they've designed helicopters so that 1:4 ratio is higher. One would hope.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

B777 it's a quality aircraft compared to the widebodies that came before like the DC10 and MD11.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm not surprised this was a United flight; they're one of the stingiest, most cheapskate major airlines around.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@englisc-aspyrgend: I totally agree with you. It was of course much more than a blunder. It was a total disgrace. My point was to the uninformed poster who was comparing this to the 737 MAX.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

For those of us living under the flight path of the new Haneda route, this is alarming. 

This is also my concern. The government has no accountability to the people at all and has proven it at every turn.

Quote @DT: "So hang on a second here. Did the gub'ment force you to live proximate to the approach or departure path of an airport? Did you do due diligence before moving into your current abode? Everything is not someone else's fault. Take some responsibility for your decisions."

The operative word is 'new'. They changed the flight path not too long ago.

https://samchui.com/2020/04/04/jets-over-shibuya-the-new-haneda-airport-flight-path/#.YDR-W-j7TIU

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As part of its over water certification, the B777 is certified to fly on one engine for 207 minutes. This flight lasted 40 minutes.

Certification on the 777 is actually 240 min.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So hang on a second here. Did the gub'ment force you to live proximate to the approach or departure path of an airport? Did you do due diligence before moving into your current abode? Everything is not someone else's fault. Take some responsibility for your decisions.

> Many of us bought property before the new route was announced in around 2012-13. The value of that property has now gone down (beyond usual depreciation) as a result of the new route. Many of us protested the new route at every available opportunity, but to no avail. When the government makes a plan, it doesn't listen to unhappy citizens as we can see with the Olympics.

Advice: Soften your tone and ask more questions before casting forum bard judgement with minimal context.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

DT: 'So hang on a second here. Did the gub'ment force you to live proximate to the approach or departure path of an airport? Did you do due diligence before moving into your current abode? Everything is not someone else's fault. Take some responsibility for your decisions.'

@DT

Many of us bought property before the new route was announced in around 2012-13. The value of that property has now gone down (beyond usual depreciation) as a result of the new route. Many of us protested the new route at every available opportunity, but to no avail. When the government makes a plan, it doesn't listen to unhappy citizens as we can see with the Olympics.

Advice: Soften your tone and ask more questions before casting forum bard judgement with minimal context.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Anything with bad ethics should be stopped immediately.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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