Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board said Monday that a broken fan blade on the engine of a United Airlines Boeing 777 showed signs of metal fatigue.
The Pratt & Whitney engine caught fire and broke apart Saturday after takeoff from Denver, raining debris down on neighborhoods.
The plane returned safely to the airport and no one was hurt.
That same day, two people on the ground were hurt in The Netherlands when a smaller Pratt & Whitney engine on a Boeing 747 cargo plane also failed.
“It’s so rare that you have an engine come apart in flight,” said pilot and aviation expert John Nance.
Nance said the engine on the 747 is widely used, but there’s no indication the Netherlands incident will lead to a larger grounding.
By contrast, the particular engine that failed on the 777 affects only 128 planes.
Half were already parked for the pandemic and all are now voluntarily grounded.
“There has been a fairly significant and very quick response,” said Todd Curtis of AirSafe.com.
Curtis pointed to a similar 2018 incident, also on a United 777 bound for Hawaii, where the engine came apart.
“The NTSB will be looking back to that investigation to see if there’s anything that connects the two,” Curtis said.
Meantime, passengers are amazed at how the United pilots safely landed the plane on one engine.
“I myself have had three engine failures,” said Captain Laura Einsetler, who flies for a major airline.
She credits well-built planes and good pilot training.
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