Following the weekend’s dramatic turn of events which saw a Boeing 777 making an emergency landing with its engine on fire, airlines around the world have moved to ground the type while investigations take place. So far, at least five airlines have grounded their entire fleets of Pratt & Whitney-powered 777s.
United incident prompts widespread grounding
An incident involving a Boeing 777 operated by United Airlines on Saturday has led to the widespread grounding of aircraft flying with the same engine type.
Flight UA328 traveling from Denver to Honolulu experienced an engine failure, which led to some dramatic footage being posted online. While the plane landed safely and no passengers were hurt, parts of the nacelle landed in residential areas, causing damage to vehicles and property.
Following this event, Boeing recommended a grounding of all the 777s flying with the same Pratt & Whitney engine. The PW 4000-112 engine is installed on 128 aircraft, all of which are flying with either United Airlines or carriers in Korea and Japan. Let’s see which airlines have removed their 777s from service.
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Following the incident over the weekend, United Airlines voluntarily removed 24 of its aircraft from service while investigations are being carried out. In a statement posted to Twitter, the airline said,
“We are voluntarily & temporarily removing 24 Boeing 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engines from our schedule. We will continue to work closely with regulators to determine any additional steps and expect only a small number of customers to be inconvenienced.”
It went on to praise the actions of its employees, stating that safety remains of the highest priority.
Safety remains our highest priority, which is why our crews take part in extensive training to prepare and manage incidents like UA328. We remain proud of our employees' professionalism and steadfast dedication to safety every day.
— United Airlines (@united) February 22, 2021
Japan grounds 777s
Over in Japan, 32 Boeing 777s have the same P&W engine onboard. Late yesterday, the Japanese transport authorities issued a ban on all PW4000 equipped 777s from flying in its airspace, forcing Japan Airlines and ANA to ground their fleets.
However, both JAL and ANA had moved to stop flying the 777s before the announcement from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. A JAL flight from Haneda to Naha in Okinawa was canceled as a result.
Japan Airlines had experienced a similar incident back in December when a 777 lost part of its left-hand engine cowling on route from Haneda to Naha. JAL had ordered stricter inspections of its fleet in response, but had not grounded any of its aircraft until now.
Korea follows suit
South Korea’s two largest airlines – Korean Air Lines and Asiana – followed suit this morning. Both have voluntarily grounded their Boeing 777s following the United Airlines incident.
Korean Air operates 16 aircraft with the same P&W engines, while Asiana has nine. Fellow Korean airline, Jin Air, has four PW4000-112 powered 777s in its fleet. It has not grounded the type yet, and says it is waiting for recommendations from the ministry.
The PW4000 range of engines powers a number of different commercial planes, including the Airbus A300, A330 and A310-300, as well as the Boeing 747-400, 767s and the MD-11. However, the PW4000-112, which is the engine of concern, only powers the Boeing 777-200, 200-ER and -300. At present, it is not thought the issue extends to any aircraft other than the 777 family.