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Emergency landing at Denver airport leads United Airlines to ground some Boeing 777 airplanes

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Posted at 7:24 PM, Feb 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-21 21:24:33-05

DENVER — United Airlines announced Sunday they will be grounding 24 Boeing 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engines, the same engine involved in an incident Saturday that lead to an emergency landing at the Denver airport.

The Boeing 777-200, departing Denver for Honolulu Saturday, experienced a right-engine failure shortly after takeoff. The plane turned around and returned to Denver International Airport, landing safely.

Debris from the engine fell onto a wide area of Broomfield, affecting homes and property in the Denver suburb. Nobody on the plane or on the ground was injured.

United currently has 52 Boeing 777-200 aircraft in its fleet — 24 active and 28 in storage. The airline said the move to remove Boeing 777's from its schedule comes "out of an abundance of caution."

United Airlines is the only U.S. operator with that type of engine in its fleet.

United is not alone. Japan's Transport Ministry instructed Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, which operate aircraft equipped with the same series of engines, to ground the Boeing 777's in their fleet.

The Federal Aviation Administration is also taking action. Following the United Flight 328 incident, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive targeted at the Pratt & Whitney 4000 series-powered aircraft. The directive would require immediate or stepped-up inspections of Boeing 777 airplanes equipped with these engines.

"We reviewed all available safety data following yesterday’s incident. Based on the initial information, we concluded that the inspection interval should be stepped up for the hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine, used solely on Boeing 777 airplanes," Dickson wrote in a statement.

The FAA’s aviation safety experts are meeting with Pratt & Whitney and Boeing to finalize the details of the Airworthiness Directive. The exact details of the inspection will be specified in an emergency order.

This story was originally published by Robert Garrison on KMGH in Denver.