Boeing suspends 777s after engine failure on United flight

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Boeing suspended operations for more than 100 of its aircraft Sunday after an engine on a United Airlines flight from Denver caught fire and fell apart, scattering debris in a Colorado neighborhood before the plane landed safely.

The suspensions apply to the model airplane used in Saturday’s flight to Hawaii, the 777 powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines, the company said in a statement.

Sixty-nine of the aircraft were in use, Boeing said. Fifty-nine more were in storage. The company said the suspensions would remain in effect until the Federal Aviation Administration identified an “appropriate inspection protocol” for the aircraft.

The department administrator, Steve Dickson, said earlier that he ordered “stepped-up” inspections of the aircraft after consulting with a team of aviation safety experts.

“Based on the initial information, we concluded that the inspection interval should be stepped up for the hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine, used solely on Boeing 777 airplanes,” he said.

United said it was immediately grounding its fleet of 24 Boeing aircraft equipped with the Pratt & Whitney engines. The airline said that it was working with federal investigators and regulators and that it expected a small number of customers to be inconvenienced while it switched the aircraft.

Federal officials said that only the U.S., South Korea and Japan use planes with the PW4000 engine and that United is the only American airline that uses them.

Reuters, citing Japan’s Aeronautical Service Information Center, said Japan also halted aircraft from flying with Pratt & Whitney engines.

In its statement, Boeing said it supported the moves by aviation authorities in the United States and Japan.

Pratt & Whitney did immediately responded to requests for comment.

Video from a passenger on United Flight 328 — which was carrying 231 people to Honolulu on Saturday — showed one of the plane’s flaming engines falling apart in the sky. A pilot reported a “mayday” and told air traffic control that the plane had had an “engine failure,” authorities said.

Large pieces of metal fell into a neighborhood in Broomfield, Colorado; there were no reports of injuries. The pilot turned the plane around and landed safely at Denver International Airport.



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