The investigation of engine failure of a Boeing 777 It could take more than a year, officials said, but the picture is already clearing of what happened to the United Airlines flight on Saturday.
According to investigators, the Pratt & Whitney engine missed minutes in United Airlines Flight 328, which flew from Colorado to Hawaii, leaving a mile of debris in its wake. After the incident, United grounded all of its Boeing 777s powered by PW4000 series engines.
A preliminary investigation indicates that the damage was “consistent with metal fatigue”, according to information from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which prompted federal regulators to reconsider engine inspections.
“Pratt & Whitney is actively coordinating with operators and regulators to support the revised inspection interval for the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines that power the Boeing 777s,” the company said. “Any further investigative updates regarding this event will be at the discretion of the NTSB. Pratt & Whitney will continue to work to ensure the safe operation of the fleet.”
Both Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the NTSB are investigating the incident. Here’s what we know so far.
What happened during the flight
“United 328 Heavy – Mayday Mayday … Leaving Denver. United 328 Heavy Mayday. The plane has just suffered an engine failure – we must turn immediately,” the aircraft beep sounded on Saturday.
The PW4000 engine has 22 blades, investigators said, one of which was found lodged inside the reactor containment ring. Another was found on a football field in Broomfield, Colorado.
One of the plane’s right engine blades came loose at the hub, likely hitting another that was broken at mid-range, investigators said Monday. The first shows damage “consistent with metal fatigue,” said NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt.
The flight fuselage had also damaged a non-critical composite part designed to make the aircraft more aerodynamic, Sumwalt said.
On the plane, passengers saw the engine completely stripped of its outer casing, according to video from passenger Travis Loock.
The mood was tense, Loock told CNN, but everyone was “very calm” on board as the pilot came to say they were going to land in four minutes.
“My daughter was sitting on the window and… I was like, ‘Don’t look, let’s close it and just pray,'” said passenger Brenda Dohn.
The damage track
None of the passengers were injured. The residents around Broomfield were also not debris falling for a mile.
“We dispatched police and within minutes we were actually at the scene of some of these houses, and we actually saw some of this big debris,” Broomfield Police spokeswoman said on Saturday, Rachel Welte.
Looking at the debris field and how busy the area was, Welte said, “the fact that we are still not receiving injury reports is absolutely shocking at this point.”
“This park on a day like today, when it isn’t as cold as last weekend, we could have hundreds of people here.”
The cab of Broomfield resident Kirby Klements’ truck was a stark reminder that damage had been done: an engine cowling landed and collapsed in the cab, according to CNN affiliate KCNC.
“I’m sitting here watching this piece of junk sitting in my driveway thinking, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do now?’” Klements said of the vehicle he was in. put so much time and money.
Kieran Cain was playing basketball with his kids on Saturday afternoon at an elementary school in Greater Denver when he heard what sounded like a sound boom and looked up.
“We could see there was a giant black cloud of smoke high in the sky, immediately followed by, you know what pieces of the plane looked like,” Cain told CNN. “Basically a rain of things falling from the sky.”
It may be some time before community members receive payment from United Airlines, but most standard insurance plans should cover “objects falling from the sky,” said Carole Walker of Rocky Mountain. Insurance Information Association at KCNC.
Where is the investigation going
The engine in question will be removed from the aircraft for further inspection, Sumwalt said.
A section of a blade will be examined Tuesday after being flown in a private jet Monday evening to a Pratt & Whitney lab, where investigators believe they can determine how long the blade was damaged before failing.
The NTSB arrived in Colorado on Saturday and began removing pieces of debris from a shed for further examination, a Broomfield Police Department tweet mentionned. Washington, DC agency investigators have started a cockpit voice analysis and flight data recorders and have yet to inspect United Airlines’ maintenance records.
Following the engine failure, Boeing recommended suspending use of the 777s fitted with a Pratt & Whitney 4000 engine, and United Airlines has already withdrawn them following the incident. The FAA also issued an emergency order earlier on Sunday, saying it would step up inspections of Boeing 777 planes equipped with certain Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines.
Gregory Wallace, Pete Muntean, Hollie Silverman, Alta Spells, David Williams, Konstantin Toropin, Chuck Johnston, Andy Rose, Gregory Clary and Lucy Kafanov contributed to this report.