United Airlines will ground 24 of its Boeing 777s after a fiery mid-air engine failure on the weekend forced a passenger jet to make an emergency landing.
The move comes after the head of the Federal Aviation Administration ordered an emergency inspection of Boeing 777 jetliners powered by PW4000 Pratt and Whitney engine. The FAA order will "likely mean that some airplanes will be removed from service," administrator Steve Dickson said.
United, which is the only US operator with the PW4000 engine type in its fleet, said it would temporarily remove 24 active planes with that engine type from service. "As we swap out aircraft, we expect only a small number of customers to be inconvenienced," United said.
No one on board the aircraft flying from Denver to Honolulu suffered any injuries but dramatic videos showed engine parts of the jetliner falling off after one of the engines caught fire. Parts of engine and other debris fell on parked vehicles and yards in suburban Broomfield in Denver.
After the mid-air scare, Flight 328 made an emergency landing at Denver International Airport. The FAA's initial review showed that inspection interval of the hollow fan blades in this model of engine must be increased.
"We reviewed all available safety data following yesterday's incident. 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," FAA administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement.
United said it will continue to work with regulators to determine any additional steps that are needed to ensure these aircraft meet our rigorous safety standards and can return to service." Besides the FAA, the National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the incident. Engine maker Pratt and Whitney didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, the NY Post reported.
Meanwhile, FAA said Japan's aviation regulator has ordered companies to suspend aircraft PW4000 engines until further notice.