US aviation agency orders urgent probes on certain Boeing 777 engines | Aviation News

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was ordering immediate inspections of Boeing 777 planes powered by Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines after one of the jets failed on a United Airlines flight on Saturday.

Operators are to perform a thermal-acoustic imaging inspection of the large titanium fan blades – essentially a means of peering beneath the surface of the metal – located at the front of each engine, the FAA said Tuesday.

“Based on the initial results as we receive them, as well as other data from the ongoing investigation, the FAA may revise this guideline to set a new interval for this or subsequent inspections,” the FAA said.

The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Monday that a cracked fan blade from the engine of United Flight 328 that caught fire shortly after takeoff from Denver, Colo. Was compatible with metal fatigue .

When the metal tires, a crack can gradually lengthen each time it is stressed when starting the engine. Such cracks can persist for years before leading to failure.

Inspection schedule

After the 40.5-inch (103-centimeter) blade broke, it tore off another blade and the front structure of the engine, throwing out a suburban neighborhood with metal and other debris.

Parts of the broken engine of United Airlines Flight 328 landed in the suburb of Broomfield, Colorado [File: Handout via EPA]

Most of the destruction from Saturday’s blackout was confined to the engine, but some material struck the plane’s fuselage, causing minor damage, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said on Monday. The pilots made an emergency landing and no one was injured.

In March 2019, after a United engine failure in 2018 attributed to fan blade fatigue, the FAA ordered inspections every 6,500 flights.

An airline would typically rack up 1,000 flights about every 10 months on a 777, an industry source familiar with the matter told Reuters news agency.

The FAA said in 2019 that each inspection was to take 22 man-hours and cost $ 1,870. He did not provide updated estimates on Tuesday.

South Korea’s transport ministry said on Tuesday it had instructed its airlines to inspect fan blades every 1,000 flights following advice from Pratt & Whitney after United’s latest incident.

The ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment following the FAA order. Korean Air and Asiana Airlines have said they will comply with guidelines from relevant authorities.

Coordinated action

The engine that failed on the 26-year-old Boeing 777-200 United Airlines plane is used on 128 planes, less than 10% of the global fleet of more than 1,600 wide-bodied Boeing 777s delivered.

Pratt & Whitney, a division of Raytheon Technologies Corp, said it is coordinating all actions with Boeing, airline operators and regulators in accordance with the FAA directive.

United Airlines flight UA328, carrying 231 passengers and 10 crew on board, returned safely to Denver International Airport with its starboard engine on fire after its pilots called a Mayday alert [File:  Hayden Smith/@speedbird5280/Handout via Reuters]

“The process requires sending fan blades to Pratt & Whitney, where the thermal-acoustic imaging inspection will be used to confirm airworthiness,” the company said, according to the Bloomberg news agency.

Boeing said it supports the latest FAA inspection guidelines and will work throughout the process with its customers.

He had previously recommended airlines suspend aircraft use while the FAA identifies an appropriate inspection protocol and Japan imposes a temporary suspension of flights after Saturday’s incident.

United, the only US carrier using PW4000-112 engines, had temporarily grounded its fleet of jetted aircraft, ahead of the FAA’s announcement. The airline said on Tuesday it would comply with the airworthiness directive.

United warned of possible disruptions to its cargo flight schedule in March as it juggled its fleet after its decision to soler 24 Boeing 777-200s, according to a notice sent to cargo customers.

Another 28 United’s 777-200 planes were already grounded before Saturday’s incident, amid a drop in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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