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‘There was a loud bang’: Here’s what federal investigators know so far about Boeing 777 United Airlines engine failure

  • February 23, 2021

 Pratt and Whitney engine failure involved in two incidents on same day

► The plane’s condition did not require an immediate evacuation upon landing. After passengers deplaned, it was taken to a nearby United hangar for investigation. Parts from the plane, including those that fell from the sky across Bloomfield, Colorado, are now laid out on the floor of the hangar. The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorders were shipped for analysis to NTSB facilities in Washington, D.C.

This image, taken Monday, shows damage to fan blades in the engine of the United Airlines Boeing 777-200 that suffered engine failure on Saturday after taking off from Denver International Airport.

► Two of the 22 fan blades on one of the Pratt Whitney engines were damaged. One fan blade separated at the root and the other was fractured in the middle, likely getting struck as the other blade was separating. One of the pieces was found in a soccer field in Broomfield, a Denver suburb. A preliminary investigation of the fractured fan blade shows signs of damage consistent with metal fatigue.

 What travelers need to know2018 United flight from San Francisco to Hawaii and a December 2020 Japan Airlines flight.

“What’s important is that we really, truly understand the facts, circumstances and conditions on this particular event before we compare it to any other event,” Sumwalt said. “But certainly we will want to know if there’s a similarity.”

This Feb. 22 photo shows damage to the wing and body fairing of a United Airlines Boeing 777-200 following an engine failure incident.

► There was “minor damage” to the body of Boeing 777, where the wing joins the body of the plane, but no structural damage to the plane.

Asked why it appears in photos that there is a sizable hole in the plane, Sumwalt said the affected area is a fiberglass piece that is easily punctured.

“You couldn’t go up and sock it with your fist but a piece of metal flying at a high speed could puncture it. It is not structural in nature.”

► The NTSB doesn’t yet know why the engine was on fire, perhaps the scariest image to emerge from Saturday’s flight.

“We do have indications that the fuel to the engine was turned off, so we will be looking to see what would have continued to propagate a fire,” Sumwalt said.

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