Boeing 777s have been grounded in the US and Japan after the US Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency airworthiness directive following a catastrophic engine failure on one of the planes in Denver on Saturday.
United Airlines said it was temporarily grounding all 24 of its Boeing 777s in active duty after one of its Boeing 777-200s had to make an emergency landing at the weekend, scattering engine debris across the ground.
Japan’s aviation regulator swiftly followed suit, ordering Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) to cease flying 777s that use the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines while it considered whether to take additional measures. Japan said ANA operated 19 of that kind and JAL operated 13.
Japan’s transport ministry said a JAL flight from Naha to Tokyo had to return to the airport on 4 December last year due to a malfunction in the left engine. That plane is the same age as the 26-year-old United Airlines plane involved in Saturday’s incident.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Sunday the directive required immediate or stepped-up inspections of planes similar to the one involved in the Denver incident.
“We reviewed all available safety data following yesterday’s incident,” the FAA said in a statement. “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.”
The FAA administrator Steve Dickson said it “will likely mean that some airplanes will be removed from service”.
Pratt & Whitney, owned by Raytheon Technologies Corp, was not available immediately for comment.
Boeing said its technical advisers were supporting the US National Transportation Safety Board with its investigation.