United To Bring Back Boeing 767-400ERs Amid 777 Groundings

United Airlines is sending some of its Boeing 767-400ERs back into the skies from this weekend. The carrier is preparing for an increase in activity this summer by deploying the widebody amid the current grounding of many of its Boeing 777 aircraft following an uncontained engine failure last month.

United Boeing 767-400ER
The 767-400ER holds 49 Polaris business class, 70 economy plus, and 131 economy seats. Photo: Getty Images

Out of hibernation

The Points Guy notes that the Chicago-based carrier will have at least one of every widebody model that it operates back in action with the return of the 767-400ER. These jets have been soaking up the sun at Roswell, New Mexico since the rise of the pandemic last March. However, before the global health crisis, they were heavily trusted on trips across the Atlantic and down to South America.

Since international operations have been rocked due to ongoing travel restrictions, United was forced to take some action with its fleet. It chose to ground the 767-400ERs in favor of the highly-revered 787 Dreamliner. Nonetheless, compared to several of its counterparts, the airline’s fleet remained largely intact.

According to Planespotters.net, United has 16 767-400ERs within its fleet. It’s not confirmed which units are going to be back in action, but registration N67052 recently headed to Hong Kong. This trip may have been in regard to maintenance or a related factor. The variant has a cruise speed of 530 mph, backed by two General Electric GECF6-80C2B8F engines, rated at 63,500 pounds thrust each.

United Airlines Newark
United holds a total of 54 767s in its fleet. Photo: Getty Images

Swapping roles

Overall, United currently has 24 777s affected by an airworthiness directive by the FAA on the ground. The organization ordered further engine inspections on the aircraft following the uncontained failure.

“The FAA is taking this action as the result of a fan-blade failure that occurred Saturday on a Boeing 777-200 that had just departed from Denver International Airport. Although the aircraft landed safely, the failure resulted in damage to the engine, an in-flight engine fire, and damage to the airplane,” the FAA states in its directive.

“After reviewing the available data and considering other safety factors, the FAA determined that operators must conduct a thermal acoustic image (TAI) inspection of the large titanium fan blades located at the front of each engine. TAI technology can detect cracks on the interior surfaces of the hollow fan blades, or in areas that cannot be seen during a visual inspection.”

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The 767-400ERs are expected to fly on routes that used to be conducted by the Pratt & Whitney-powered 777s. United is looking at two services with the plane in May, from Newark to both San Juan and Houston

United 777
Caution is needed following the incident last month. Photo: NTSB

Taking action

Altogether, airlines across the globe are hopeful of an increase in passenger activity later this year. Moreover, carriers are also responding to booking patterns heading into the summer. So, United is making sure that it’s well prepared to handle demand while the issue with the affected 777s gets solved.

Simple Flying reached out to United Airlines for comment about its Boeing 767-400ER aircraft. We will update the article with any further announcements from the airline.

What are your thoughts about United Airlines bringing back its 767-400ER aircraft? Do you feel that this is a good move for the carrier? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.