NEW YORK, Feb 22 (APP): Boeing Company has recommended grounding dozens of its 777 aircraft around the world after the engine of one the jets caught fire and and fell apart after take off from Denver, capital of US state of Colorado.

The United Airlines plane, carrying 231 passengers, was forced to return to Denver airport on Saturday. No injuries were reported.

In total, Boeing said 128 aircraft with the same engine as the Denver plane should be grounded.

“While [an] investigation is ongoing, we recommended suspending operations of the 69 in-service and 59 in-storage 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines,” the company said in a statement.

Pratt & Whitney said it had dispatched a team to work with investigators.
Boeing said 69 of the planes were in service and 59 were in storage, at a time when airlines have grounded planes due to a plunge in demand associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 777-200s and 777-300s affected are older and less fuel efficient than newer models and most operators are phasing them out of their fleets.

Images posted by police in Broomfield, Colorado, showed significant plane debris on the ground, including an engine cowling from the 26-year-old plane scattered outside a home.

United Flight 328, bound for Honolulu, suffered a failure in its right-hand engine, the FAA said. Debris from the jet was found scattered over a nearby residential area after it returned to Denver airport.

Debris from the engine of a Boeing 777 which failed during take-off from Denver, 20 February

The agency has ordered extra inspections of Boeing 777 jets fitted with the Pratt & Whitney 4000 engine following the incident. “We reviewed all available safety data following [Saturday’s] incident,” said FAA administrator Steve Dickson in a statement.

“Based on the initial information, we concluded that the inspection interval should be stepped up for the hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine, used solely on Boeing 777 airplanes.”

The FAA is meeting representatives from the engine firm and Boeing.

The initial finding of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is that most of the damage occurred in the right engine, where two fan blades were fractured and other blades also impacted. The main body of the aeroplane suffered only minor damage.

Passengers onboard the flight said there was a “large explosion” shortly after take-off.

“The plane started shaking violently, and we lost altitude and we started going down,” David Delucia said. He added that he and his wife placed their wallets in their pockets so that “in case we did go down, we could be identified”.

Police in the town of Broomfield posted pictures of what appeared to be the front of an engine casing in the front garden of a home. Other fragments were seen around the town including on a football field. No-one was injured by the falling debris from the plane.