United Airlines engine failure on Boeing 777 flight from Colorado: What travelers need to know

An engine failure on a United Airlines flight from Colorado to Hawaii, during which aircraft parts rained over the suburb of Denver on Saturday, put the Boeing 777, engine types and fan blades in the spotlight.
The plane returned safely to Denver and no injuries were reported among the 231 passengers and 10 crew members or residents of Colorado, but pictures from the incident and passenger reports have stunned travelers and left them with countless questions about one of the goals of the aviation industry. to wide-body jets for flights to Europe and Hawaii.
A video from the plane posted on social media shows that the correct engine is on fire and part of the engine cover is missing. The piece ended up in a yard in Broomfield, Colorado.
"The plane started shaking violently and we lost altitude and drowned," David Delucia, who sat with the failed engine directly across the aisle from the side of the aisle, told The Associated Press. “When it initially happened I thought we were done. I thought we were going down. "
United only US airline with engine Boeing 777 that failed on Saturday
The Federal Aviation Administration said there are 128 older Boeing 777s that are powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines.
United is the only US airline with planes with the affected engines. The airline had 24 operating during the pandemic and 28 in storage before volunteering them on the ground late Sunday. United passengers will be accommodated on other flights.
Grounding is a step further than FAA guideline to step up inspections of Boeing 777s with the Pratt & Whitney engines, especially the fan blades.
The other airlines that operate 777s powered by Pratt & Whitney engines are in Japan and South Korea, according to the FAA. These include Japan Airlines, ANA and Korean Airlines. The Japan Civil Aviation Bureau grounded them.
Yes, you may still be booked on a Boeing 777
United has 44 other Boeing 777s, all with GE engines that are not affected by United's 777 grounding or FAA policy. For example, the airline will use one of these planes to fly between San Francisco and Taipei, Taiwan in March instead of one of their grounded 777s, according to United spokesman Charlie Hobart.
American Airlines has 67 Boeing 777s in its fleet. They are powered by Rolls-Royce and GE engines, which are also not affected by the FAA directive. The planes were used for international flights before the pandemic and are now widely used for flights within the United States, spokeswoman Sarah Jantz said.
Delta Air Lines shut down its 18 Boeing 777s ahead of schedule last year as international travel has declined due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and health concerns. The last Delta 777 flight was from New York to Los Angeles in October. The airline, which began flying between Atlanta and London in 1999, called it the end of an era and praised the jet as a "workhorse". Delta flew nearly 134,000 flights on the plane.
Ed Bastian, Delta CEO, said shutting down a fleet as "iconic" as the 777 was not an easy decision given its role in the airline's international growth.
"I have flown on this plane many times and I love the customer experience it has delivered over the years," he said in a statement before the last flight last fall.
Delta Air Lines discontinued its 18 Boeing 777s in 2020.
Aviation Safety Expert: Serious engine failures are rare but potentially catastrophic
United Flight 328 from Denver to Honolulu experienced what Ed Coleman, a former military pilot and aviation safety expert, initially believed to be an uncontrolled engine failure based on photos of the damage.
An error that is not included means that parts have escaped from the motor despite protective covers and other safety measures.
According to Coleman, chair of the safety science department at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., Dramatic failures are more dramatic and dangerous than other engine failures because the faulty parts can potentially damage the aircraft, director of the school's Robertson Safety Institute.
"When things come out of the engine, you don't know where they're going to go," he said. "Some breakdown fuel tanks ... or they set something on fire."
Late Monday, however, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board said the incident with United was not considered uncontrolled engine failure at this point in the investigation because the "containment ring contained the parts when they were blown out".
Still, Robert Sumwalt largely called the definition of the type of engine failure technical.
"It was still an event that we don't like to see," he said.
In April 2018, an engine failure on a southwest flight killed a 43-year-old mother of two.
The National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into engine failure in the Southwest found that a crack in an engine fan blade caused it to break off and hit the fan cover at a critical point near some latches. The impact opened the cover and sent some parts into the fuselage. One of them pierced a window, fatally injuring Jennifer Riordan, the passenger in the window seat.
Overall, the number of engine failures is "infinitely small," said Coleman. "This is more of an anomaly than a routine.
"They're pretty rare because of the inspection procedures," Coleman said. "Engines have certain times when they are torn down and looked at."
Coleman, a former Air Force pilot, said the pilots are routinely trained to deal with engine failures that are not contained and contained. He said the tone of United pilots on air traffic control records during the incident underscored this.
"Their voices don't even rise an octave higher," he said.
He has investigated military engine failures and has experienced one uncontrolled engine failure in his career, as well as about a dozen other engine failures that resulted in engine shutdown.
United had a similar engine failure on another Boeing 777 flight to Hawaii
Saturday's incident wasn't the first unforeseen failure for United on a Boeing 777 flight to Hawaii.
In February 2018, a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii on an aircraft with the same Pratt & Whitney engine lost its engine cover after a fan blade separated when the aircraft departed for Honolulu.
The flight made an emergency landing, but there were no injuries to the 363 passengers and 10 crew members. The aircraft had minor damage.
New engine inspection procedures have been introduced to avoid repetition.
"When a fan blade breaks, it's usually because a crack is overlooked," said Coleman.
It's early, but the similarity between the two incidents is being zeroed by the NTSB, he said.
"I suspect they will look very closely at these inspection procedures and see what was missed and how it was overlooked," he said.
The United Boeing 777 involved in the incident in 2018 was used again at United. Late Saturday, United flew passengers from Flight 328 on a later flight to Honolulu.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: United Flight 328 Engine Failure: What You Should Know About Boeing 777
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