Boeing recommends airlines suspend use of some 777s after United incident

Boeing Co urged airlines to suspend the use of 777 jets with the same type of engine that shed debris over Denver at the weekend after U.S. regulators announced extra inspections and Japan suspended their use while considering further action.

The moves involving Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines came after a United Airlines 777’s right engine failed on Saturday, scattering its protective outer casing over a residential area.

United said the next day it would voluntarily and temporarily remove its 24 active planes, hours before Boeing’s announcement.

Boeing said 69 of the 777 planes with PW4000 engines were in service and 59 were stored, at a time when airlines have grounded planes due to a plunge in demand associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The manufacturer recommended airlines suspend operating them until U.S. regulators identified the appropriate inspection protocol.

It falls short of a mandatory global grounding but is another headache for the plane maker after its 737 MAX crisis and comes after criticism of U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight regarding the 737 MAX.

The 777-200s and 777-300s affected are older and less fuel efficient than newer models and are currently being flown by just five airlines - United, Japan Airlines Co Ltd (JAL), ANA Holdings Inc, Asiana Airlines Inc and Korean Air Lines Co Ltd. Most of them are phasing them out of their fleets.

The problem concerns Pratt & Whitney, one of three engine makers originally involved in the 777, whose engines power less than 10% of the delivered fleet of more than 1,600 planes.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said its initial examination of the 26-year-old plane indicated most of the damage was confined to the right engine, with only minor damage to the airplane. (reuters)