United Airlines Sends Engine Failure 777 To The Mojave Desert

You may remember that, in February this year, a United Airlines Boeing 777 suffered a spectacular engine failure over Denver. Until yesterday, the aircraft had been stored in Colorado since the incident that caused engine parts to rain down on the local suburbs. However, it has now taken to the skies once again, flying to Victorville in California’s Mojave Desert. It appears that this could be the end of the line for the plane.

United Airlines Boeing 777 N772UA
The flight to Victorville was N772UA’s first in nearly five months. Photo: InSapphoWeTrust via Flickr

Briefly back in the air

Following its involvement in an engine failure incident over Denver in February, a United Airlines Boeing 777-200 registered as N772UA returned to the skies yesterday. The aircraft, which data from ch-aviation.com shows is more than 26 years old, had previously been stored in Colorado since shedding engine parts after departing Denver.

According to RadarBox.com, N772UA lifted off from Denver for the first time since the incident at 08:39 local time yesterday. After five months of waiting, it was able to briefly stretch its legs once again on a flight to California that lasted an hour and 40 minutes.

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N772UA Flightpath
N772UA was airborne for 100 minutes in what could have been its final flight. Image: RadarBox.com

However, this was not a passenger-carrying flight to Los Angeles or San Francisco. Indeed, the 100-minute trip, which touched down at 09:19 local time, saw the plane fly to Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, widely known as an aircraft graveyard.

This suggests that, given N772UA’s age, this could be the end of the line. Simple Flying has reached out to United for further information regarding the plane’s fate.

Consequences of the engine failure

N772UA’s potentially expedited retirement has not been the only consequence of its spectacular engine failure in Denver five months ago. Indeed, the incident impacted 777 usage worldwide, with engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney recommending that examples with its PW4000 engines, which N772UA had when the failure occurred, were grounded.

United Airlines Boeing 777 N772UA
N772UA was one of United’s oldest 777s. Photo: Pieter van Marion via Wikimedia Commons

The incident also had legal implications for United. The carrier received a class-action lawsuit from one of the passengers onboard the flight in question, who suffered emotional distress as a result of the engine failure. Their legal counsel argued that, had United inspected the affected engine’s fan blades more closely, the incident would not have occurred.

The fifth 777 ever built

As it happens, N772UA is a particularly historic example of Boeing’s famous ‘triple-seven’ family, having been just the fifth example ever built. United is known for having some of the world’s oldest remaining 777s in its fleet, and it actually has another three that are older than N772UA. However, ch-aviation’s data suggests that these aircraft are all in storage.

United Airlines Boeing 777
N772UA’s first livery was United’s ‘Battleship’ grey scheme. Photo: Dbenbenn via Wikimedia Commons

As for N772UA itself, this aging aircraft has spent its entire operational career with United, since joining the carrier in September 1995. As of December 2020, it had amassed 96,751 flight hours across 17,222 cycles, averaging around five-and-a-half hours per sector. On an annual basis, this works out at 3,702 hours (just over 10 a day) across 678 cycles a year.

As far as N772US’a seating configuration was concerned, the aircraft could accommodate 364 passengers in a three-class setup. This consisted of 234 seats in a 10-abreast economy class cabin, 102 in economy plus, and 28 in its ‘Polaris’ business class.

Did you ever fly on N772UA? What are your memories of the aircraft? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.