The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has confirmed that it has nearly finished three safety directives for a number of grounded Boeing 777 planes with Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines which will enable them to return to service. The directives were proposed after three reported in-flight fan blade failures and will require enhanced inspections and modifications before 777-200s and 777-300s equipped with Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines can take to the skies again after having been grounded for over a year.
Additionally, a United Airlines 777 failed shortly after takeoff from Denver in February 2021, showering debris over nearby cities. One directive requires installing debris shields on the thrust reverser inner wall, inspecting fan cowl doors for moisture ingression and repetitive checks of the hydraulic pump shutoff valves. Another requires modifying the engine inlet to withstand fan blade failure events. A third requires specific corrective actions depending on inspection results.
United Airlines, which is the only US operator of 777s with the PW4000 engine and which has 52 of those planes, said the step “is a good and safe outcome for our industry and United customers,” adding that “Many of the affected engines have already undergone these proposed modifications. We expect these aircraft to resume flying customers again soon.”
Boeing must now develop a service bulletin laying out steps airlines must take to meet requirements. FAA must approve that bulletin before the planes can return to service. The directives will become effective in mid-April.