A United flight out of Denver made national news on February 20 when large metal parts fell off the Boeing 777-200 jet just after takeoff. According to local news, parts were spread over at least three neighborhoods in the Broomfield suburb. The largest piece was a cowling ring that fell into a resident’s front yard. Fortunately, there were no confirmed injuries.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engine turbines failed as the plane ascended after takeoff just after 1 p.m. local time. Eyewitnesses claimed they heard a loud noise and what looked like the plane going down. A passenger on the flight filmed the faulty engine on fire. The plane was able to make a safe emergency landing at Denver International Airport.
The 777 models were subsequently grounded as investigators did their work. In the meantime, there are reports that Boeing had previously expressed concern over the jet engine’s protective cowling (cover) before the incident in Denver – a 20218 flight from San Francisco to Honolulu also lost an engine cowl. However, again, no one was hurt, and the plane landed safely.
According to experts, the engine’s safety design had focused on safely ejecting broken turbine blades out the back of the engine. Still, the two incidents noted here indicate that the blades shot forward and damaged the cowling.
An ongoing danger
It is cause for concern that Boeing, Pratt and Whitney and FAA officials were aware of the potential dangers of the plane’s engine, but no one took concrete steps to resolve the matter. Moving forward, involved parties will need to work faster on this issue if they want to avoid a crash or lethal incident. If they do not, the businesses could face serious legal problems.