Many Boeing 777s grounded after Denver engine failure

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Debris from the failed engine of a United Airlines airplane in the Denver suburb of Broomfield. Broomfield Police/AFP

Boeing called for the grounding of 128 of its 777 planes across the world on February 21 as US regulators investigated a United Airlines flight whose engine caught fire and fell apart over a suburban US community.

United, Korean Air and Japan’s two main airlines confirmed they had already suspended operations of 62 planes fitted with the same family of engine which scattered debris over Denver on February 20.

The US National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) is also investigating the incident, in which no one was hurt.

Boeing warned that similarly fitted planes should be taken out of service until the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) had determined an inspection procedure. “While the NTSB investigation is ongoing, we recommended suspending operations of the 69 in-service and 59 in-storage 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines,” the company said.

Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) said they had respectively grounded 13 and 19 planes using PW4000 engines but had avoided flight cancellations by using other aircraft.

The Japanese transport ministry said it had ordered stricter inspections of the engine after a JAL 777 plane flying from Haneda to Naha experienced trouble with “an engine in the same family” in December.

United said it had voluntarily removed 24 Boeing 777 planes from service and expected “only a small number of customers to be inconvenienced”.

South Korea’s transport ministry said it had no immediate plans to ground planes, adding that it was monitoring the situation.

But Korean Air, the country’s largest airline and flag carrier, said it had grounded all six of its Boeing 777s with PW4000 engines currently in operation.