In two superhero movies starring Superman, the Man of Steel gives reassurances to some people he had rescued from aircraft that had been damaged mid-flight. He tells them not to be afraid of flying because statistically speaking going by air is the safest way to travel. That is true, and the only reason air accidents make big news and horrify those who hear of them is due to how rare they actually happen compared to mishaps on the road. Nevertheless, air-related incidents do tend to be feared due to their potential for high casualties. Fortunately none of these recent incidents ended fatally for all involved.
The Verge tells us that aircraft Boeing has another crisis on their hands with one of their commercial airliner models after a 777 had dramatic engine trouble in flight, forcing an emergency landing. United Airlines Flight 328 was headed from Denver to Honolulu last Saturday, February 20. Shortly after takeoff there was an explosion in its right engine, leaving it on fire and raining debris on the ground. They managed to turn around and land back at Denver International without further incident, but it was certainly a close call.
Over the weekend following the incident, United Airlines and various agencies in the US and Japan have taken steps to put the Boeing 777 under close scrutiny. UA put all its 777s out of active service as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began mandating inspections of the aircraft. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism of Japan also ordered the grounding of 777s in service under Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways. The suspect element is of course, the 777 engine, manufactured for Boeing by Pratt & Whitney. The PW4000 turbofan engine on Flight 328’s right wing was reported to have fan-blade fractures, according to the investigation by the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB).
In light of the incident, Boeing is calling on all airlines flying aircraft with the PW4000, not just the 777s, to ground them for inspection. In fact, a 747 transport plane with PW4000 engines that took off from the Netherlands on the same day as UA Flight 328 also had a similar mishap but was able to land safely. While the incidents did not end in disaster like the 737 MAX, which was grounded worldwide after two crashes in 2018 and 2019, this could become another headache for Boeing as well as Pratt & Whitney.
Image courtesy of Financial Times