US FAA finalizes Boeing 777 safety guidelines after fan blade failures
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Wednesday that it is finalizing three safety guidelines for certain grounded Boeing 777s powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines that will allow them to return to service. The final new airworthiness directives cover Boeing 777s like a United Airlines 777 that grounded shortly after takeoff from Denver in February 2021, dumping debris on nearby towns. No one was injured and the plane returned safely to the airport.
The FAA said the new guidelines, which were proposed in December after three reported in-flight fan blade failures, require enhanced inspections and modifications that will allow Boeing 777-200 and -300 aircraft equipped with these Pratt engines. & Whitney to resume flying after being grounded for over a year. Directive requires installation of debris shields on the inside wall of the thrust reverser, inspection of the fan cowl doors for moisture ingress, and repetitive checks of the hydraulic pump shut-off valves . Another requires modifying the motor input to withstand fan blade failure events. A third requires specific corrective actions based on inspection results.
The guidelines will come into effect in mid-April. In February 2021, the agency ordered immediate inspections of 777 planes equipped with PW 4000 engines before new flights, after the National Transportation Safety Board found a cracked fan blade on the United engine.
United, which is the only U.S. operator of 777s powered by the PW4000 engine and owns 52 of those planes, said the milestone “is a positive and safe outcome for our industry and United’s customers.” The airline said “many affected engines have already undergone these proposed changes. We expect these aircraft to resume flying with customers soon.”
Boeing must now develop a service bulletin outlining the steps airlines must take to meet the requirements. The FAA must approve this bulletin before the aircraft can be returned to service. Boeing did not immediately comment.
In April, Japan Airlines said it had retired its fleet of 13 Boeing Co 777s powered by PW4000 engines a year ahead of schedule, after suspending operations in February. The Japanese carrier had its own incident with the PW4000 engines in December, when a malfunction forced a JAL 777 bound for Tokyo to return to Naha Airport in Okinawa.
The engines are only found on a small number of older 777s operated by JAL, United, ANA Holdings Inc, Korean Air Lines Co Ltd, Asiana Airlines Inc and Jin Air Co Ltd.
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