Boeing has recommended all airlines temporarily suspend Boeing 777 aircraft with the same engine type as the United Airlines flight from Denver to Honolulu that suffered an engine failure on February 20th. 

The incident included the failure of the aircraft’s Pratt & Whitney’s PW4000 engine mid-flight, fortunately no injuries were reported aboard the aircraft or due to debris that fell to the ground. 

As a result, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered emergency inspections advising “immediate or stepped-up inspections of Boeing 777 aircraft with certain Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines”, and went on to say that airlines should step up the inspection interval for the hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine. 

Which Airlines are Affected?

United Airlines is the only U.S. carrier that uses the 777 aircraft with the Pratt & Whitney engine with a total of 128 aircrafts. Typically this aircraft is used only for flights between Hawaii and select mainland hubs, including Denver (DEN), Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). United has currently removed all 24 of the craft from its schedule, claiming only a small number of customers will be affected by the change. 

Other international carriers utilizing this aircraft and engine including All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Asiana,  Korean Air and EgyptAir have all been taken out of service for inspection, and the U.K. has ordered a temporary ban of the aircraft over its airspace . 

What is being done to ensure the safety of the aircraft?

While the investigation is ongoing by the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), inspections are underway for the aircrafts using the Pratt & Whitney engines. In total, there are 69 aircraft with that engine type in active use, and an additional 59 in storage. The FAA also recommended that airlines step up the inspection interval for the hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine.

Airlines that use this type of aircraft may begin to substitute other planes that are instead powered by General Electric GE90 engines until inspections are complete.

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