Boeing Co on Sunday called for the grounding of 128 of its 777 planes around the world as US regulators investigated a United Airlines Holdings Inc flight whose engine caught fire and fell apart over a suburban city.
United and Japan’s two main airlines confirmed they had already suspended operations of 56 planes fitted with the same engine that fell apart mid-flight over Colorado on Saturday.
The US National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) is also investigating the incident, in which no one was hurt.
Photo: EPA-EFE / Hayden Smith
Boeing said similarly fitted planes should be taken out of service until the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) had determined an inspection procedure.
“While the NTSB investigation is ongoing, we recommended suspending operations of the 69 in-service and 59 in-storage 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines,” the company said.
Japan Airlines Co (JAL) and All Nippon Airways Co said they had respectively grounded 13 and 19 planes using PW4000 engines, but had avoided flight cancelations by using other aircraft.
The Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said it had ordered stricter inspections of the engine after a JAL 777 plane flying from Haneda to Naha experienced trouble with “an engine in the same family” in December.
United said it had voluntarily removed 24 Boeing 777 planes from service and expected “only a small number of customers to be inconvenienced.”
The FAA had earlier ordered extra inspections of some passenger jets.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said he had consulted with experts and that some airplanes would “likely” be removed from service.
“I have directed them to issue an Emergency Airworthiness Directive that would require immediate or stepped-up inspections of Boeing 777 airplanes equipped with certain Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines,” he said in a statement.
Dickson said that a preliminary safety data review pointed to a need for additional checks of the jet engine’s fan blades, which were unique to the engine model and only used on 777 planes.
FAA officials were meeting with Pratt & Whitney and Boeing representatives on Sunday evening, he added.
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