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Boeing 777 groundings: what you need to know

United Flight 328’s Pratt & Whitney engine burst into flames shortly after takeoff and rained debris down over a Denver suburb.

Boeing 777 groundings: what you need to know
[Photo: Hayden Smith/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock]
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On Saturday, United Flight 328 left Denver for Honolulu. The Boeing 777 was carrying 231 passengers and 10 crew members when, shortly after takeoff, parts of one of its Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines began breaking up and falling from the sky over Colorado’s capital.

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Based on video and images posted to Twitter, it was as scary as it sounds.

Luckily there have been no reports of injuries in the air or on the ground, and Flight 328 quickly made an emergency landing. However, as CNN reports, Flight 328’s debris spread over a mile across a Denver suburb, so things could have turned out much differently.

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By Sunday an initial examination of Flight 328’s Pratt & Whitney PW4077 engine by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) showed that two of the engine’s fan blades were fractured, with other blades having related damage. The findings are still preliminary, but as a result of the incident:

  • Boeing issued a statement saying it recommends airlines suspend “operations of the 69 in-service and 59 in-storage 777s powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines until the FAA identifies the appropriate inspection protocol.”
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive requiring immediate or stepped-up inspections of Boeing 777s equipped with certain Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines.
  • Japan’s aviation regulator ordered Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways to stop flying Boeing 777s that use the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines.
  • Korean Air grounded its 777s planes with the same Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines used in United Flight 328.

The Flight 328 incident couldn’t come at a worse time for Boeing, which is already dealing with the aftermath of two fatal 737 Max crashes in recent years and the COVID-19 pandemic that has decimated the airline industry. As for Pratt & Whitney, the company issued a short statement that it has “dispatched a team to work with investigators” and that it “will continue to work to ensure the safe operation of the fleet.”

About the author

Michael Grothaus is a novelist, journalist, and former screenwriter. His debut novel EPIPHANY JONES is out now from Orenda Books. You can read more about him at MichaelGrothaus.com

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