Boeing 777 makes emergency landing in Moscow after engine sensor problem

A Rossiya Airlines Boeing 777 cargo plane made an emergency landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Friday due to a problem with an engine control sensor, said airline said.

The plane was a 15-year-old 777-300ER, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24, which means it has General Electric engines.

Those are different from the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines under scrutiny after an engine fire aboard a United Airlines 777 on Saturday which prompted the suspension of operations involving planes using those engines.

General Electric did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Russian airlines operate Boeing 777-300ER planes equipped with General Electric GE90-115B engines, federal aviation agency Rosaviatsiya said on Wednesday said, adding it was not considering suspending operation of those aircraft.

Rossiya Airlines Flight 4520, travelling from Hong Kong to Madrid, touched down in Moscow at 0444 local time (0144 GMT), data from Flightradar24 showed. Rossiya Airlines, a unit of Russian state carrier Aeroflot, said the crew requested the landing at the airline’s base airport in Moscow.

“The landing took place normally,” Rossiya said in a statement, adding that the flight would continue to Madrid after 0900 GMT on Friday.

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

(Reuters) – Boeing Co said it recommended suspending 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 landed safely in Denver on Saturday local time after its right engine failed.

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 planes were in service and 59 were in storage, 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 operations until U.S. regulators identified the appropriate inspection protocol.

The 777-200s and 777-300s affected are older and less fuel efficient than newer models and most operators are phasing them out of their fleets.

Images posted by police in Broomfield, Colorado showed significant plane debris on the ground, including an engine cowling from the 26-year-old plane scattered outside a home.

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

It said the inlet and casing separated from the engine and two fan blades were fractured, while the remainder of the fan blades exhibited damage.

Japan’s transport ministry ordered Japan Airlines Co Ltd (JAL) and ANA Holdings Inc to suspend the use of 777s with PW4000 engines while it considered whether to take additional measures.

The ministry said that on Dec. 4, 2020, a JAL flight from Naha Airport to Tokyo returned to Naha due to a malfunction in the left engine.

Japan Transport Safety Board said on Dec. 28 that it had found two of the left engine’s fan blades were damaged, one from a fatigue fracture. The investigation is ongoing.

United is the only U.S. operator of the planes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The other airlines using them are in Japan and South Korea, the U.S. agency said.

“We reviewed all available safety data,” 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.”

Japan said ANA operated 19 of the type and JAL operated 13 of them, though the airlines said their use had been reduced during the pandemic. JAL said its fleet was due for retirement by March 2022.

Pratt & Whitney, owned by Raytheon Technologies Corp, said it was coordinating with operators and regulators to support a revised inspection interval for the engines.

An official at South Korea’s transport ministry said it was waiting for formal action by the FAA before giving a directive to its airlines. The U.S. agency said it would soon issue an emergency airworthiness directive.

Korean Air Lines Co Ltd said it had 16 of the planes, 10 of them stored, and it would consult with the relevant authorities.

In February 2018, a 777 of the same age operated by United and bound for Honolulu suffered an engine failure when a cowling fell off about 30 minutes before the plane landed safely. The NTSB determined that incident was the result of a full-length fan blade fracture.

Because of that 2018 incident, Pratt & Whitney reviewed inspection records for all previously inspected PW4000 fan blades, the NTSB said. The FAA in March 2019 issued a directive requiring initial and recurring inspections of the fan blades on the PW4000 engines.

Korean Air grounds six Boeing 777 planes

(Reuters) – Korean Air Lines Co Ltd has grounded six Boeing 777 jets with a certain type of engine that had been in operation, a Korean Air spokeswoman said on Monday.

Boeing has recommended suspending the use of 777 jets with the 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.

Pratt & Whitney, which is owned by Raytheon Technologies Corp, said it was coordinating with regulators to review inspection protocols. It is expected to increase inspections ordered after previous incidents.

After the Colorado engine failure, when United Flight 328 dropped debris on a northern Denver suburb before landing safely, Boeing recommended the suspension of 777s with the same variant of PW4000 turbine. Japan, meanwhile, imposed a mandatory suspension.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) weighed in on Monday, requesting more information on the Pratt engines in light of both events. A woman sustained minor injuries in the Dutch incident, which scattered turbine blades on the town of Meerssen. One was found embedded in a car roof.

After receiving more information, EASA said the incidents were unrelated. “Nothing in the failure and root analysis show any similarity (between the two incidents) at this stage,” the regulator said.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it would soon issue an emergency airworthiness directive based on the United event.

Both incidents involve the same type of PW4000 engine that equips a relatively small number of older planes, some grounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting the likely repercussions.

They nonetheless bring a new headache for Boeing as it recovers from the much more serious 737-MAX crisis, which resulted in the grounding of its flagship narrowbody jet after two deadly crashes.

“This is certainly an unwelcome situation for both Boeing and Pratt, but from time to time issues will pop up with aircraft and engines,” said Greg Waldron, a managing editor at industry publication Flight Global.

“The PW4000-powered 777-200 is slowly fading from service,” he said, adding that the pandemic-driven slump means that airlines forced to suspend it “should be able to fill any network gaps” with 787s or other 777s equipped with General Electric Co engines.

Analysts at broker Cowen predicted limited impact on Boeing’s share price, which fell about 2.1% on Monday.

EARLY FINDINGS

The 777-200s and 777-300s affected are older, less fuel-efficient models still flown by five airlines: United, Japan Airlines, ANA Holdings Inc, Asiana Airlines Inc and Korean Air. Most are in the process of being phased out.

Boeing said 69 of the 777s operating globally with PW4000s had been in recent service, with another 59 stored. Pratt & Whitney engines power less than 10% of the delivered 777 fleet of more than 1,600 planes.

United suspended 24 of its 777s, pre-empting Boeing’s advice, after the Saturday blowout that dropped the right engine’s protective outer casing near homes.

A large majority of 777s in service today are powered by engines made by General Electric, the sole supplier on recent models.FILE PHOTO: United Airlines flight UA328, carrying 231 passengers and 10 crew on board, returns to Denver International Airport with its starboard engine on fire after it called a Mayday alert, over Denver, Colorado, U.S. February 20, 2021. Hayden Smith/@speedbird5280/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

In the Dutch case, the Longtail pilot was informed of an engine fire by air traffic control after taking off from Maastricht, bound for New York, and diverted to Liege, Belgium.

The Dutch Safety Board on Monday said it was investigating the incident.

Examination of the 26-year-old United jet showed damage was mostly confined to the right engine, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said. Its inlet and casing came off and two fan blades were fractured, with others showing damage.

The FAA said early findings suggested 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 cause of the engine fire in the Netherlands incident remained unclear.

In-flight PW4000 engine failures have previously been examined by authorities.

Another United 777 of the same vintage suffered an engine failure in February 2018, when a cowling fell off about 30 minutes before the plane landed safely. A full-length fan blade fracture was behind the incident, the NTSB determined.

After a malfunction forced a Tokyo-bound JAL 777 to return abruptly to Naha airport in December, Japan’s Transport Safety Board reported it found two damaged fan blades, one with a metal fatigue crack. Its investigation is ongoing.

JAL, which operates 13 of the planes, said they were scheduled for retirement by March 2022.

The smaller PW4000 engines on some Boeing 747s and 767s, as well as some Airbus A330s, do not feature the hollow titanium fan blade suspected of being involved in the United 777 incident.