Boeing, Pratt & Whitney in the Spotlight After Engine Failures
An in-flight engine failure in a commercial flight in the US prompted a safety investigation and suggestions of grounding that type of Boeing 777. A similar incident occurred with a cargo aircraft in the Netherlands, this time involving a Boeing 747.
On Saturday, United Airlines flight 328 heading to Honolulu suffered an in-flight engine failure that showered debris in a residential area in Denver. No injuries were reported on ground and the airplane carrying 231 passengers safely returned to Denver International Airport. After the accident, which involved a 777 aircraft powered by a Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engine, Boeing has suggested a temporary grounding of similar aircraft while an investigation on the causes of the accident is concluded. “While the NTSB investigation is ongoing, we recommended suspending 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,” said Boeing in a statement.
Pratt & Whitney, which manufactured the affected engine, also sent a team of investigators to help shine a light on the issue. “Pratt & Whitney is actively coordinating with operators and regulators to support the revised inspection interval of the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines that power Boeing 777 aircraft,” said the company in a statement. This type of aircraft is only flown by airlines from the US, Japan and South Korea, which promptly grounded them pending the results of the investigation.
A Boeing aircraft was involved in a second incident on Saturday, when the engine of a 747-400 cargo airplane also failed and rained debris over a town in the Netherlands, injuring two people. The aircraft, flown by charter airline Longtail Aviation, headed to New York City, US, from Maastricht Aachen Airport, the Netherlands, but due to the accident had to be redirected to Liège Airport in Belgium. The 747 was also powered by Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, albeit a smaller version of those used by the previous 777. The Dutch Safety Board indicated that “it is too early to draw conclusions” regarding the accident.
Currently, no Mexican airlines operate either the Boeing 777 or the 747 as Aeroméxico retired its last 777 on Feb. 26, 2019 and currently operates no 747. The airline penned the acquisition of 10 Boeing 747-8i, which use General Electric’s GEnx-2B. The first of these aircraft is expected to be delivered in 2024.