Federal aviation regulators are ordering United Airlines to step up inspections of all Boeing 777s equipped with the type of engine that suffered a catastrophic failure over Denver on Saturday.
United said it is temporarily removing those aircraft from service, and Boeing recommended grounding aircraft with that model engine until the Federal Aviation Administration decides how to proceed with inspections.
The announcements come a day after United Airlines Flight 328 had to make an emergency landing at Denver International Airport after its right engine blew apart just after takeoff. Pieces of the casing of the engine, a Pratt & Whitney PW4000, rained down on suburban neighborhoods.
The plane, which carried 231 passengers and 10 crew members, landed safely, and nobody aboard or on the ground was reported hurt, authorities said.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement Sunday that based on an initial review of safety data, inspectors “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.”
Boeing said it supported decisions by the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau and FAA to suspend operations of all 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines. It said 69 of the engines were in service and another 59 in storage.
“We are working with these regulators as they take actions while these planes are on the ground and further inspections are conducted by Pratt & Whitney,” it said in a statement Sunday.
The National Transportation Safety Board said two of the engine’s fan blades were fractured and the remainder of the fan blades “exhibited damage.” The NTSB did caution that it was too early to draw conclusions about what happened.