The latest Boeing aircraft grounding is not the start of another 737 MAX debacle. But that’s a more unwelcome advertisement for an already battered US aerospace industry.
Airlines around the world followed Boeing’s recommendation on Sunday and stopped flying the 777 engine-powered jets made by Pratt & Whitney, a division of US conglomerate Raytheon. This followed issues on a United Airlines flight on Saturday that scattered engine debris over a suburb of Denver. The Federal Aviation Administration will order inspections of all affected aircraft, given the precedent of a similar incident in 2018.
While the extent of the problem is not yet clear, it is likely to affect only a subset of a small subset of the global fleet.
Pratt is one of three companies to have manufactured turbofan jet engines for the jet since it started flying in 1994. According to data provider Cirium, only 8.3% of the 777s in service use the PW4000 engines. in question, with 12% of Rolls-Royce. equivalent. The rest is maintained by General Electric, which has been the sole supplier of all longer-range 777 variants that Boeing has produced since the mid-2000s.
United is the first user of the 777s powered by Pratt – and the only one in the United States – followed by Japanese carriers ANA and Japan Airlines, as well as Korean Air and Asiana Airlines. Yet the immediate logistical challenges for airlines may be limited. The 777 affected are the kind of big, old jets airlines kept in stock during the Covid-19 crisis. Out of 127 in service, according to Cirium, 67 were already stationed.