After nearly a year, the Federal Aviation Administration has signed off on a plan that allows United Airlines to restore service on its Boeing 777-200 aircraft with Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines.
777-200 With Pratt & Whitney Engines Will Return To United Airlines Active Fleet This Month
On February 20, 2021, a fan-blade failure resulted in an engine failure on a United 777-200 with P&W engines traveling from Denver (DEN) to Honolulu (HNL). Nearly a year after the incident, we will see these aircraft return to service, after the FAA introduced three remediation steps to reduce the chances of a repeat incident:
- strengthening engine cowlings (nacelle inlet modifications)
- enhanced engine fan-blade inspection
- inspection of other systems and components (including thrust-reverser components)
If you are interested in a much more technical explanation of the modifications, Aviation Week offers excellent coverage.
Raytheon, which owns Pratt & Whitney, noted that remedial measures could “be performed in the field, on or near-wing by trained personnel.”
Broadly, however, the FAA still noted “further action is necessary to address the airplane-level implications and unsafe condition resulting from in-flight engine fan blade failures.”
Put simply, the FAA wants to ensure there are safety measures in place that will reduce risk should future fan blade failures occur. The planes with PW4000 engines were never actually grounded in the USA by regulators; the move to do so was voluntary by United.
Expect to see the return of these aircraft, which offer a dense configuration of 28 seats in business class and 336 seats in economy class, on flights to Hawaii and select transcontinental flights. Most of these aircraft do not have individual screens in economy class.
Speaking of the directives in late December, when they were still under proposal, United Airlines called them “a good outcome for our industry and United customers” and added “many of the affected engines have already undergone these proposed inspections. We expect these aircraft to safely rejoin our fleet [in early 2022].”
Expect to see a return to of these P&W 777-200 aircraft, which is bittersweet for customers who have enjoyed the more spacious 777-300ER in its place. But the restoration of this aircraft to the active United fleet marks an important vote of confidence for PW4000 engines.