United grounds Boeing 777 aircraft following engine failure; FAA narrows investigation

Updated: Feb. 21, 2021 at 3:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Federal aviation officials are in the midst of their investigation into what caused an engine to fall apart on a United Airlines flight to Honolulu Saturday.

The failure sent pieces of engine debris raining down onto a Colorado suburb.

[Related report: Debris from HNL-bound flight falls over Colorado homes leading to emergency landing]

A day after the incident, a Federal Aviation Administration official said they were narrowing their investigation into a piece that is specific to the type of Boeing 777 aircraft involved.

“We reviewed all available safety data following yesterday’s incident. 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,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said.

Some of the Boeing 777 planes being closely examined are equipped with certain Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, the FAA added.

United Airlines also responded Sunday by temporarily pulling the 777s from their fleet.

In a statement, the airliner said, “Starting immediately and out of an abundance of caution, we are voluntarily and temporarily removing 24 Boeing 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engines from our schedule. Since yesterday, we’ve been in touch with regulators at the NTSB and FAA and will continue to work closely with them to determine any additional steps that are needed to ensure these aircraft meet our rigorous safety standards and can return to service.”

They anticipate only a small number of customers would be impacted by the change.

The NTSB also released an update Sunday, pointing to problems with the fan blades, saying two were fractured. The cockpit voice recorders and flight data recorders have been recovered and are being analyzed.

Click here to read the full NTSB update.

One Kauai woman on the flight recalled the moment the engine failed shortly after takeoff.

Read her account of the incident here: ‘It just blew fire’: Kauai woman watched as an engine fell apart on United flight 328.

Miraculously, no one was injured in the incident on the ground or in the air.

Pilot managed to land the plane safely back at Denver International Airport.

This story may be updated.

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