For more than 100 of its aircraft, Boeing suspended operations on Sunday, after an engine on a United Airlines flight from Denver caught fire and fell apart. Before the plane landed safely, it also scattered debris in a neighborhood in Colorado.
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The suspensions only apply to the 777 powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines, the model airplane that was used in Saturday’s flight to Hawaii. Boeing said that sixty-nine of these aircraft were in use. The company announced that this suspension would remain in effect until an “appropriate inspection protocol” is identified for the aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Steve Dickson, the department administrator, earlier said that after consulting with a team of aviation safety experts, he ordered “stepped-up” inspections of the aircraft. He also said that on the basis of the initial information, they concluded that the interval between inspections should be stepped up for the hollow fan blades, which are unique to this model of engine that is solely used on Boeing 777 airplanes.
United said it was immediately grounding 24 Boeing aircraft that were equipped with the engines of Pratt & Whitney. The airline also said that it expected a smaller number of customers to be inconvenienced while it made the switch between the aircraft and that it was working with federal regulators and investigators. Federal officials announced that only Japan, South Korea, and the US use airplanes with the PW4000 engine and that United Airlines is the only American-based airline company that uses these planes.
Citing the Aeronautical Service Information Center, Reuters said that Japan has also stopped those aircraft from flying that use the Pratt & Whitney engines. Boeing, in its statement, said that it supports the moves by the aviation authorities in Japan and the United States.
On United Flight 328, which carried 231 people to Honolulu on Saturday, a passenger recorded a video that showed one of the flaming engines of the plane falling apart in the sky. The authorities said that a pilot had told air traffic control that the plane was facing an engine failure and reported a “mayday”.
Large metal pieces fell into a neighborhood in Broomfield (Colorado), and there were no injuries reported. The pilot managed to turn the plan around and then safely landed at the Denver International Airport.