United Airlines temporarily grounded 25 Boeing 777-200 jets after finding during a routine audit that it had failed to properly inspect the wings of the aircraft. A handful of flights were canceled and inspections are ongoing.
United Airlines Grounds 777-200 Aircraft After Discovering Missed Wing Maintenance Inspections
Beginning on Monday evening, a number of United flights operated by 777-200 aircraft were suddenly canceled, with United issuing a cryptic message:
Your flight is canceled because we needed to take the plane out of service to address a technical issue. Your safety is our priority and we’re sorry for the inconvenience.
By the end of the day, 18 flights were canceled, including:
- UA1666 SFO-EWR (N796UA)
- UA788 EWR-SFO (N796UA)
- UA918 IAD-LHR (N791UA)
- UA932 IAD-FRA (N788UA)
- UA2059 SFO-EWR (N786UA)
- UA30 EWR-MUC (N785UA)
- UA2215 EWR-LAX (N782UA)
- UA915 IAD-CDG (N224UA)
- UA149 EWR-GRU (N227UA)
- UA106 IAD-MUC (N216UA)
- UA31 MUC-EWR (N216UA)
- UA148 GRU-EWR (N217UA)
Upon checking the tail numbers, it became clear that the issue was impacting Boeing 777-200 aircraft with Pratt & Whitney engines (the same subfleet that was grounded for more than a year after an engine issue on a Denver – Honolulu flight).
This week’s issue, however, is not related to engines but wing slats. Per the Wall Street Journal, United discovered that it had failed to perform required inspections of panels on the front edge of the wings of 25 jets and therefore took them out of service until such inspections could be performed. Interestingly, United discovered the problem during an internal audit and immediately reported it to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The missed inspections were intended to check the area of the wing where slats extend during take-off and landing to generate lift.
As of Tuesday night, 10 of the 25 inspections were complete, with those aircraft back in service. While 18 flights were ultimately canceled, United does not expect any further cancellations. The inspections will be complete by the end of next week, with a United spokesperson confirming:
“We’ve completed inspections on 10 of those aircraft, and are working with the FAA to return others to service while inspections are ongoing over the next two weeks.”
It is not clear how this inspection was missed in the first place, but United caught it during an internal audit and promptly reported the matter to the FAA. It is now completing its inspections and will restore these 777 aircraft to service as soon as the inspections are complete.
image: Bill Abbott