United engine failure spurs Boeing 777 groundings in US and Japan

WASHINGTON/TOKYO – Japan ordered a halt to all flights of Boeing Co 777s equipped with the engine that failed Saturday (Feb 20) over Denver as US aviation regulators ordered emergency inspections of the model’s fan blades.

Japan’s transport ministry on Sunday ordered ANA Holdings Inc and Japan Airlines Co to ground Boeing 777 planes they operate following an engine failure that rained debris over a Denver suburb but injured no one.

ANA operates 19 planes and JAL 13 with similar engines that failed on United Airlines plane in Denver.

The US carrier involved in Saturday’s incident, United Airlines, said it will voluntarily halt operations of 24 of its planes while the FAA order is carried out.

United is the only US operator of the planes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The other airlines using them are in Japan and South Korea, the US agency said.

The (FAA) ordered inspections after examining the hollow fan blade that failed, the agency said in an emailed statement Sunday evening.

The inspections apply to Boeing 777s equipped with PW4000 engines made by Raytheon Technologies Corp’s Pratt & Whitney division.

FAA Administrator Steven Dickson said the aggressive inspections “will likely mean that some airplanes will be removed from service.”

A Japan Airlines 777-200 with Pratt & Whitney engines suffered a similar failure on Dec 4.

That plane is the same age as the 26-year-old United Airlines plane involved in Saturday’s incident.

“After consulting with my team of aviation safety experts about yesterday’s engine failure aboard a Boeing 777 airplane in Denver, 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,” Mr Dickson said in an emailed statement.

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