FAA orders reinforcement of Boeing 777 engine after failure

Noriko Yamamoto

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will order the structural reinforcement of the engine cowling on Boeing 777-200 aircraft equipped with Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines. The measure follows the engine failure of a United Airlines Boeing 777-200 over Denver, on February 20, 2021.

In a hearing with a Committee of the House of Representatives of the United States, FAA administrator Steve Dickson said the agency required manufacturers to address the “strengthening of the engine’s cowling,” in order to make sure that “the structure around the engine, the cowling, and the inlet area, does not damage the aircraft structure.”

On February 20, 2021, a United Airlines Boeing 777-200, operating flight UAL328 from Denver, United States, to Honolulu, Hawaii, US, suffered an uncontained engine failure, scattering engine parts over several neighborhoods around Denver. 

The FAA previously required owners and operators of the Pratt & Whitney PW4000-112 engines powering the Boeing 777 to immediately perform a thermal acoustic image inspection before any further flight after the US National Transportation Safety Board found that the damage to one of the blades on the Pratt & Whitney engine that failed appeared consistent with metallic wear.

A similar incident was reported by the Japanese transport ministry on December 4, 2020. An engine of the same PW4000 family suffered problems on a domestic flight of a Japan Airlines (JAL) Boeing 777. In April 2021, JAL announced it would retire its 24 Boeing 777s in the -200 and -300 series by 2023, and replace them with the A350.

In total, 128 Boeing 777s powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines are grounded since February 21, 2021. In the United States, United Airlines was the most impacted, with 24 Boeing 777s powered by the PW4000 engines in its fleet.

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