Pratt & Whitney engines on Boeing Co.
777 jets will need to be inspected before these planes can fly again, according to an emergency order issued Tuesday by the Federal Aviation Administration.
A Pratt & Whitney engine on a United Airlines Holdings 777 Inc.
The plane crashed during a flight over the weekend near Denver, spraying the residential area below with debris and forcing the flight back to the airport. No one was hurt.
Airlines around the world that operate planes equipped with this type of engine have already grounded the affected jets. United, the only U.S. carrier affected, has voluntarily decommissioned its 24 Boeing 777s powered by Pratt & Whitney engines – a move it says will affect its cargo shipments next month as it prepares to replace parked planes to carry passengers.
United has other impacted planes that were parked in warehouses and the carrier said on Tuesday it would comply with the FAA’s order to ensure all planes in its fleet meet its stringent safety standards.
On Monday, US security investigators said they found evidence of “damage consistent with metal fatigue” on one of the engine’s fan blades that had been largely torn off. According to Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, this detached blade apparently then cut off part of a second blade which was also fractured.
The FAA’s order, described as an interim measure, means that it will be some time before planes equipped with these engines can fly again. Boeing has recommended airlines take them down, and Japanese regulators have ordered airlines to stop using them. In South Korea, regulators have only ordered special engine inspections, although Korean Air and Asiana Airlines have grounded all 777 jets with Pratt & Whitney engines in operation.
Typically, authorities in other countries issue orders based on the directive of the country that certified the aircraft or part, in this case, the United States.
The FAA said it will review the results of thermal-acoustic imaging inspections which can detect cracks on the inner surfaces of the fan blades that cannot be seen otherwise. These results will determine how often these inspections should be performed in the future.
The weekend incident follows two similar engine failures involving the same type of engine on the same type of aircraft in recent years.
The FAA had previously required that the fan blades for this engine be inspected at regular intervals after a similar incident on a United flight in 2018.
The FAA had previously considered ordering increased inspections of Pratt & Whitney engines after another similar failure on a Japan Airlines. Co.
flight in December. Japan’s Transportation Safety Board said a fan blade that had weakened over time had failed. Japan Airlines said it will inspect and replace these blades at more frequent intervals than was previously requested in the FAA’s inspection regime.
In a statement, Pratt & Whitney said the engines would be shipped to one of its facilities for inspection in order to comply with the FAA action, which it said involved around 125 Boeing 777. Boeing said in a statement that he supported FAA guidelines on inspection requirements.
—Doug Cameron and Eun-Young Jeong contributed to this article.
Write to Alison Sider at email@example.com
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