Fourth Incident For United Boeing 787-9 In One Week

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***Update on 07/08/020 @ 17:15UTC – United Airlines confirmed the aircraft had “multiple issues with the slat and flaps”***

A United Airlines Boeing 787-9 returned to Rome’s Fiumicino airport after the aircraft suffered an issue after takeoff. Strikingly, the July 7th incident was the fourth one in the last week on that particular Boeing 787-9. Previously, the same jet had three separate issues in Tokyo.

United 787-9
The aircraft returned to Rome after takeoff. Photo: Boeing

Boeing 787-9 returns to Rome

A United Airlines Boeing 787-9 returned to Rome, according to the Aviation Herald. The aircraft was operating flight UA2860 from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport (FCO) to the carrier’s hub at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). After taking off, the aircraft was mid-climb when the crew stopped and slowed the aircraft. Then, the plane returned to FCO at a higher-than-normal landing speed about one hour after departure.

United 2860
The flightpath of UA2860 showing a hold and then return to Rome. Screenshot: FlightAware

Interestingly, this was the third incident for the aircraft in the last week. Twice, on July 2nd, the same 787-9 returned to Tokyo over an issue with leading edge flaps. And then, a leading edge flap issue occurred on July 3rd, and the plane again turned back to Tokyo.

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United 787-9
The plane successfully completed three flights between the issues in Tokyo and this incident. Photo: Boeing

Returning to an airport is a decision that a crew does not take lightly. It creates problems for aircraft scheduling and crew management. But, the issue must have been serious enough to warrant the aircraft’s return. United stated that the aircraft had multiple issues with the slats and flaps.

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The aircraft

N27958 is just under five years old and was delivered new to the airline. According to Flightradar24, after a few days on the ground in Tokyo, the aircraft successfully performed a flight back to the United States, San Francisco (SFO), which is one of the airline’s largest hub.

N27958
N27958, the aircraft involved in these incidents. Photo: Mark Harkin via Flickr

Then, the same plane performed a successful flight from San Francisco to Chicago (ORD)– another hub for the airline. From Chicago, the aircraft performed a flight to Rome on July 7th. And then, departing Rome in the evening, the plane was bound for Newark when the incident occurred.

The flight

The aircraft was not carrying any passengers. Instead, this flight was part of the airline’s robust freight program. Currently, United is forced to run a limited schedule due to international travel restrictions. On both ends, Europe has not rolled out a welcome mat for American tourists, while, since March, the United States has barred tourists from Europe.

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United 787-9 Dreamliner
The 787s are one of United’s primary international long-haul planes. Photo: Getty Images

The current crisis has put a strain on global freight lines, which has led to air carriers instituting cargo-only flights using passenger aircraft. In May, United flew its first flights with cargo in the cabin. It is unclear if there was cargo inside the aircraft on this flight. Early on in this crisis, United has been flying cargo-only flights to keep military families connected and to fly in 1,000 ventilators to the United States from China.

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