NTSB Shares Damage Experienced By United 777 Engine Failure

Today the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released images showing the damage sustained by a United Boeing 777 following an engine failure. In addition, the photos show the work being undertaken by the agency to identify the cause of the incident.

United Airlines, Boeing 777, Engine Failure
The NTSB has released images of the damage sustained by a United Airlines Boeing 777. Photo: NTSB

On Saturday, a United Airlines Boeing 777 flying from Denver to Honolulu made headlines around the world. Usually hours long, on Saturday, the flight lasted just 30 minutes, ending up back where it started after an engine failure caused significant damage to the number two engine. In a bid to understand the cause and try to prevent a repeat occurrence, the NTSB opened an investigation, while many Boeing 777s with the same engine have also been grounded.

Fan blades damaged

In photos taken by the NTSB, one can see that two of the engine’s fan blades have sustained significant damage. One appears to have fractured near the root, with the next one breaking further up. According to the NTSB’s initial examination, a portion of a fan blade was found embedded in the engine’s containment ring, with the remainder of the fan blades showed damage to the tips and leading edges.

United Airlines, Boeing 777, Engine Failure
One fan blade broke off near the route. Photo: NTSB

We’ve already seen the impact of the damage caused by the failure. By now, most people have seen the shocking image of the front cowling resting in somebody’s front yard, with many headlines referencing engine parts raining over Denver.

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However, it wasn’t just the engine that sustained damage from Saturday’s failure. Another image from the NTSB shows that a piece of debris also impacted the aircraft’s belly. It’s not certain which piece this was, but a reasonably large cavern is visible where the wing joins the fuselage. In a press release on Sunday, the NTSB categorized this as minor damage.

United Airlines, Boeing 777, Engine Failure
The fuselage was also damaged where the wing meets the belly. Photo: NTSB

The NTSB is continuing to analyze data from the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder and data recorder, with additional images from the NTSB showing that downloading of the data has already commenced.

A reasonably easy part recovery process

It has been relatively easy for the NTSB to find and collect parts that fell from the engine as they fell over populated land. Had the engine failed further into the flight over the Pacific Ocean, finding such pieces would be a much harder challenge.

United Airlines, Boeing 777, Engine Failure
Investigators will go to extreme lengths to find parts of failed engines. Photo: Greenland Guidance

However, agencies do go to extreme lengths to recover engine parts to assist their investigations. In September 2017, an Air France A380 suffered an uncontained engine failure while passing over Greenland at 37,000 feet. The pieces became buried in snow and ice. However, investigators teamed up with universities to survey parts of the suspected landing site and eventually found the parts covered by a few feet of snow.

What do you make of the images shared by the NTSB? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!