WASHINGTON – Oh boy, guess what? The big brains at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) broke some news. They spilled the beans on Friday, saying that pesky engine failure in February 2021 on a United Airlines Boeing 777 over Colorado? A teeny-tiny crack in one of the fan blades started it all! And, get this, they’re pointing fingers at some pretty lackluster inspections.
Immediately after this engine hiccup, the FAA jumped into action mode, shouting, “Hold up! We gotta check these bad boys!” They made sure all 777 planes rocking those Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines got a thorough once-over before they hit the skies again. Sadly, this meant those big metal birds stayed grounded for well over a year.
That ill-fated Boeing 777-200? It was just trying to head off to sunny Honolulu from Denver. Instead, it decided to make it rain – with debris, sprinkling it all over the neighboring towns! Thankfully, by some miracle, no one got hurt, and the bird found its way back home safely to the airport. Phew!
The NTSB went all detective-like, saying, “These blade inspections? Not thorough enough, folks!” The ones that missed the early warning signs of cracks? Yeah, they slipped through the cracks. And to add fuel to the fire, the manufacturer wasn’t checking often enough. This slip-up let that sneaky crack grow big and strong, leading to the whole engine throwing a fit. Pratt & Whitney, part of Team RTX, zipped their lips and stayed mum.
Meanwhile, United Airlines chimed in with a sigh of relief, saying they’ve been all buddy-buddy with the NTSB, FAA, Boeing, and even Pratt and Whitney throughout this rollercoaster. They’re just tickled pink to have their planes back in action.
Flash forward to March 2022, the FAA rolled out new safety rules. Why? Because, believe it or not, there were three in-flight fan blade oopsies, including the Colorado mess! They wanted better checks and tweaks. The FAA piped up, “We did it ‘cause of those fan blade mishaps!”
Boeing, not wanting to be left out of the chatter, threw in their two cents. Since the debacle, they’ve been on the hunt for design tweaks to make sure the engine’s front door and outer shell are as sturdy as Grandma’s old oak table. They’ve been busy bees, updating everyone, including the FAA, Pratt & Whitney, and the airlines.
Here’s a fun fact: Only United in the U.S. flies the 777s with that particular PW4000 engine. And they had a whopping 52 of those as of 2022. And the NTSB? They’ve been counting. As of January, they’ve spotted 17 cracked fan blades. The very first naughty blade? Spotted way back in December 2004. And that’s not even counting the three that totally went kaput while working!
Now, isn’t that a whirlwind of events? Let’s hope those birds stay up in the sky where they belong!