United 777 plane that dropped engine parts was not due for fan blade inspection - NTSB

By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A United Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft with a Pratt & Whitney engine that failed Feb. 20 had flown less than half of the flights permitted by U.S. regulators between fan blade inspections, the National said Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Friday.
The Boeing Co 777 aircraft had flown 2,979 cycles prior to its last inspection in 2016. At the time of the incident, checks were required every 6,500 cycles required after United's separate engine failure in 2018. A cycle refers to a take-off and a landing.
Reuters first reported the inspection data on Feb. 24, citing sources.
Following United's engine failure shortly after its launch in Denver, Pratt & Whitney, a unit of Raytheon, issued a bulletin every 1,000 cycles calling for inspections.
The Federal Aviation Administration then issued an emergency order requiring all 777 PW4000 aircraft to be inspected prior to resumption of flights.
The NTSB previously said that if the United engine failed, damage to a fan blade was compatible with metal fatigue.
The agency said the broken blade had undergone inspections in 2014 and 2016. The 2016 inspection dates were re-examined in 2018 following the incident involving a United 777 that suffered an engine failure near Honolulu.
The engines are used in 128 older versions of the aircraft, accounting for less than 10% of the more than 1,600 777s shipped. Only a handful of airlines in the United States, South Korea, and Japan operated this engine prior to the 777 incident.
United, the only US operator of 777s with the PW4000 engine, declined to comment on Friday. After the incident, she voluntarily grounded her fleet of 24 aircraft with this engine. Boeing didn't immediately comment on Friday.
The engine failure spilled engine parts over a nearby Denver suburb, but no one was injured. The captain decided not to drain any fuel for safety and time reasons, the NTSB said.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bill Berkrot)
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