United Airlines has announced on Sunday that it would be temporarily removing 24 of its fleet's Boeing 777s in light of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) inspection of the causes which led to heavy engine malfunction.
A United Boeing 777 bound for Honolulu with more than 230 people on board had to make an emergency landing at Denver International Airport on Saturday after the exterior of one of its engines caught fire, dropping debris around Broomfield, Colorado. No injuries were reported on the ground.
The company, which is reportedly the only US air operator with the ill-fated 777's engine type in its fleet, has decided to remove the planes from its schedule as a proactive measure, with another 28 of the aircraft currently in storage.
We are voluntarily & temporarily removing 24 Boeing 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engines from our schedule. We will continue to work closely with regulators to determine any additional steps and expect only a small number of customers to be inconvenienced.— United Airlines (@united) February 22, 2021
The head of the FAA, Steve Dickson, said that certain Boeing 777 jetliners powered by the same Pratt and Whitney engine, the PW4000, will be inspected by the department. The National Transportation Safety Board is also conducting its investigation into the incident.
“We reviewed all available safety data following yesterday’s incident. 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,” he said in a statement issued on Sunday.
Statement from FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. pic.twitter.com/dGkUYuKNAL— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) February 21, 2021
Boeing has recommended that airlines temporarily remove the 777 model of aircraft from service.
"Boeing is actively monitoring recent events related to United Airlines Flight 328. While the NTSB investigation is ongoing, we recommended suspending operations of the 69 in-service and 59 in-storage 777s powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines until the FAA identifies the appropriate inspection protocol," the company said in a statement.
According to The Guardian, the Ministry of Transport of Japan ordered Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, which operate aircraft fitted with the same engine set, to ground their Boeing 777s.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines have parked or retired hundreds of planes after demand dropped.