The Federal Aviation Administration recently ordered all airlines in the United States to ground airplanes that use certain Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, which are only used on Boeing 777s. The FAA’s order comes on the heels of two recent Pratt & Whitney engine failures in the United States, one of which resulted in an engine explosion on a flight out of Denver. Fortunately, that flight was able to land safely, although dangerous debris fell onto neighborhoods below. Another Pratt & Whitney PW4000 series engine failed on a flight out of Japan in December.
After a preliminary investigation of the incident out of Denver, the Chairman of the National Transportation Board explained that one of the fractured fan blades recovered had visible signs of damage consistent with metal fatigue. Based on the NTSB’s initial findings, the FAA released the following statement: “After reviewing the available data and considering other safety factors, the FAA determined that operators must conduct a thermal acoustic image inspection of the large titanium fan blades located at the front of each engine.” Thermal Acoustic Imaging can detect cracks and defects in objects that cannot be seen by visual inspection.
Passengers on the flight out of Denver said they were frightened and feared the plane would crash after the engine explosion and the visible fire inside the engine. The explosion was also visible from the ground, leaving a trail of black smoke in the sky.
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