United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Flies Four-Hour Flight To Nowhere After Inflight Failure

A United Airlines Boeing 787-9 flying from Houston to Argentina returned to Houston mid-flight after the aircraft experienced a generator failure. The plane returned to Houston four hours after takeoff. There were no reported injuries and limited impact on airport operations.

United Boeing 787-9
A generator failure on a Boeing 787-9 led a United jet to fly a four-hour flight to nowhere. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

United’s four-hour flight to nowhere

According to the Aviation Herald, a United Airlines Boeing 787-9 flying flight UA819 from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE) in Buenos Aires suffered an incident inflight.

The aircraft took off from Houston and was en route over Guatemala when the crew decided to return to Houston. The reason for the diversion, according to the report, was a generator failure. Reports state the cabin lights went out, emergency lights came on, and the crew advised they were running on the backup generator, though both engines were operating normally.

The aircraft turned around and headed back to Houston. IAH prepared for the arrival, though the aircraft landed safely just over four hours after departure. The plane was able to vacate the runway on its own.

According to data from RadarBox.com, the plane departed Houston at 21:06 local time and returned to the airport at 01:27 the next morning.

UA819
UA 819 made it to Guatemala before returning to Houston. Photo: RadarBox.com

United accommodated passengers on another Boeing 787-9. The flight departed Houston on May 30th at 10:40 local time, arriving in Buenos Aires at 21:34, according to data from RadarBox.com.

The Boeing 787s have six generators. There are two in each engine and two per APU. The 787 has a significant need for electricity, requiring powerful generators. While the crew activated a backup generator, the safest decision, according to the crew, was for the jet to return to Houston.

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The aircraft

The aircraft involved in the initial flight was N13954. According to data from ch-aviation.com, the aircraft is 6.2 years old. The plane has only flown with United in its history.

The Boeing 787-9 operating this flight was one of the jets sporting the older Polaris cabin and no premium economy. The plane seats 252 passengers. With room for 48 in business class, 88 in extra-legroom economy, and 116 in standard economy.

UA 787-9
The aircraft operating the flight was a six-year-old jet. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

 

All seats feature access to inflight power and seatback entertainment. WiFi is offered onboard the aircraft. The replacement Boeing 787-9 is registered as N26967. The jet is also an aircraft that has not yet been retrofitted.

The route

Houston is United’s gateway to Latin America, though the carrier has been diversifying its presence in Latin America through the crisis. United is the only carrier flying nonstop between Houston and Buenos Aires.

Pre-crisis, United flew the Boeing 777-200ER on the route. However, with the ongoing crisis and associated reduction in travel demand, United has opted to put the more fuel-efficient Boeing 787-9 on the route, which is also marginally smaller in terms of capacity than the 777-200ERs in United’s fleet.

United 787-9
United Airlines had started flying the Boeing 787-9 when it resumed flights between Houston and Argentina. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The US and Argentina have also been at odds over passenger flights. The US, alleging that Argentina has been blocking US carriers from flying to the country while Aerolineas Argentinas continues to fly between the US and Argentina, has laid the groundwork to block Aerolineas Argentinas from flying to the United States if US carriers do not get permission to run their own flights to Argentina.

Were you onboard this aircraft? What do you make of the diversion? Let us know in the comments!

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