Ein loud bang. An engine that is on fire. Metal parts that rain from the sky and land in a residential area. The se were dramatic scenes that happened on Sunday shortly after the start of United Airlines flight number 328, which was to go from Denver to Honolulu. Because of the defective engine, the pilots were forced to turn back and make an emergency landing with the Boeing 777 at Denver Airport. The whole thing went off without a hitch, neither passengers nor people on the ground were injured.
But the incident has consequences: Boeing was forced to recommend that all 777 aircraft that are equipped with the same engine be withdrawn from service. This is tantamount to a flight ban, as the company recently experienced with its model 737 Max. This is another setback for Boeing. In addition, the focus is also on Pratt & Whitney, the manufacturer of the engine, which belongs to the aviation and defense group Raytheon. This was the third breakdown of a 777 powered by a Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engine in three years. The share prices of Boeing and Raytheon fell slightly at times on Monday.
Quite a number of difficulties
After the incident, the American traffic safety authority NTSB initiated an investigation. She announced that preliminary investigations had shown that the “fan blades” of the engine had been damaged, two of them were broken. In addition to the engine, there was also minor damage to the rest of the aircraft. After the incident, the FAA ordered inspections of all 777 aircraft equipped with Pratt & Whitney engines. Both Boeing and Pratt & Whitney said they are working with the relevant regulators.
The aircraft affected by the disruption represents a comparatively small part of the Boeing fleet. The 777 is a large aircraft model with two aisles and is mainly used for longer routes. It has been in use since 1995, and a little more than 1,600 copies have been delivered so far. Boeing has manufactured more than 10,000 machines of the much more popular Type 737.
The engines from Pratt & Whitney, on the other hand, were installed in the 777 in the early years, but Boeing has been using engines from General Electric for several years now.
Many 777 planes are currently not in use due to the lower demand for flights amid the Corona crisis. According to the company, Boeing’s recommendation to temporarily cease operation of the model affects a total of 128 copies, of which 69 were in air traffic and 59 were parked anyway. Only American and Asian airlines have this model in their fleet. In America, for example, United Airlines had 24 of these machines in operation and 28 in storage.
Boeing 777s with the Pratt & Whitney range of engines have been involved in two similar incidents in recent years. It wasn’t until December that a Japan Airlines plane, which was supposed to fly from Okinawa to Tokyo, had to turn back shortly after take-off due to an engine failure. Investigators later found damage to the fan blades. In February, there was an engine failure on a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Honolulu. Here, too, the traffic authorities found damage to the fan blades afterwards.
Boeing has faced a number of difficulties over the past few years. The flight ban for the 737 Max plunged the group into the worst crisis in more than a hundred years of history. Boeing had to take the machine out of service in March 2019 after two crashes that cost a total of 346 lives. The company revised the automatic flight control specially developed for the 737 Max, which has been linked to both accidents.
The process dragged on much longer than expected.
The group also has other concerns. With the 787 model, too, he has to contend with quality defects. Just a few weeks ago, he also announced that the new 777X aircraft model would not come onto the market until 2023 instead of 2022. Extra charges of $ 6.5 billion were booked for the delay. In the previous year, Boeing only delivered 157 aircraft.
The European rival Airbus had 566 machines.