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Smoke emanates from an engine fire on a Boeing 777 operated as United Airlines flight 328 on Saturday. Debris from the plane was scattered over Broomfield, Colorado. Photo: EPA/Hayden Smith @speedbird5280

Japan grounds Boeing 777s after US airline’s jet suffers engine failure, rains debris

  • United Airlines flight 328 had been headed from Denver to Honolulu on Saturday when its engine failed soon after departure
  • Debris was scattered over the Denver suburb of Broomfield but no one was injured. A Japan Airlines 777-200 suffered a similar failure in December
Japan has ordered a halt to all flights of Boeing 777s equipped with the engine that failed on Saturday over Denver as US aviation regulators ordered emergency inspections of the model’s fan blades.

Japan’s transport ministry on Sunday ordered ANA Holdings Inc. and Japan Airlines Co. to ground Boeing 777 planes they operate following an engine failure that rained debris over a Denver suburb but injured no one. ANA operates 19 planes and JAL 13 with similar engines that failed on United Airlines plane in Denver.

The US carrier involved in Saturday’s incident, United Airlines, said it will voluntarily halt operations of 24 of its planes while inspections are carried out.

Residents take pictures of debris from the United Airlines jet’s engine failure in Broomfield, Colorado, on Saturday. Photo: AFP

The US Federal Aviation Administration ordered inspections after examining the hollow fan blade that failed, the agency said in an emailed statement on Sunday evening. The inspections apply to Boeing 777s equipped with PW4000 engines made by Raytheon Technologies Corporation’s Pratt & Whitney division.

FAA Administrator Steven Dickson said the aggressive inspections “will likely mean that some planes will be removed from service.”

A Japan Airlines 777-200 with Pratt & Whitney engines suffered a similar failure on December 4.

“After consulting with my team of aviation safety experts about yesterday’s engine failure aboard a Boeing 777 in Denver, I have directed them to issue an Emergency Airworthiness Directive that would require immediate or stepped-up inspections of Boeing 777 planes equipped with certain Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines,” Dickson said in an emailed statement.

A video shot on Saturday from inside the United Airlines aircraft – which had 231 passengers and 10 crew on board – showed the right engine ablaze and wobbling the wing of the Boeing 777-200, its cover entirely missing.

Dickson said a preliminary safety data review pointed to a need for additional checks of the jet engine’s fan blades.

“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,” Dickson said.

United Airlines flight 328 had been headed from Denver to Honolulu when it experienced an engine failure soon after departure.

Residents in the Denver suburb of Broomfield found large pieces of the plane scattered around their community, including a giant circular piece of metal that landed in a back garden.

The pilots were able to return safely to Denver – also known as the Mile High City.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse