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Engine on Boeing 777 flight failed over Japan in December [Video]

A passenger has re-shared footage of the moment the engine of a Boeing 777 blew just moments after take-off in Japan back in December – in eerily similar circumstances to a frightening mid-air engine explosion in Denver on Saturday.

The footage captured by Naru Kurokawa, 40, has resurfaced amid calls from Boeing to ground its entire global fleet of 777-200s which use Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, in light of the Denver incident involving United Airlines Flight 328.

Kurokawa told Reuters how he had been aboard a Japan Airlines (JAL) flight from Naha Airport in Okinawa to Japan on December 4, when he heard a loud ‘ripping noise’ followed by a huge jolt.

He looked out the window to see a large metal panel hanging off from the plane’s left-engine. It was later confirmed the engine had failed at approximately 16,000-17,000 feet as the aircraft was climbing.

‘I was panicking in my head, thinking about how I was maybe going to die,’ he said, adding that the flight was forced to make an emergency landing around 40 minutes after take-off.

‘I thought I would go insane if I accepted the thought of death, so I focused on taking videos of the situation.’

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JAPAN: A man told Reuters how he had been aboard a Japan Airlines (JAL) flight from Naha Airport in Okinawa to Japan on December 4, when he heard a loud ripping noise followed by a huge jolt

He looked out the window to see a large metal panel hanging off from the plane¿s left-engine. It was later confirmed the engine had failed.

¿Watching videos of the United Airlines flight and engines in flames brought back the fear I experienced,¿ Naru Kurokawa said.

JAPAN: Naru Kurokawa (shown right) said he looked out the window to see a large metal panel hanging off from the plane’s left-engine. It was later confirmed the engine had failed

DENVER: Video recorded by passengers aboard Flight UA328, which was carrying 231 travelers and 10 crew members, shows the engine on fire

DENVER: Video recorded by passengers aboard Flight UA328, which was carrying 231 travelers and 10 crew members, shows the engine on fire

Kurokawa, a web director and music producer, documented the incident at the time on his Twitter.

Two clips he captured showed the plane shaking as it made it’s decent back into Naha. 

An employee of the Okinawa Times newspaper Minako Kuroshima, who was also on that JAL plane, wrote afterwards that a pilot told passengers the plane was flying with only the right engine.

Another passenger told the Japanese outlet Mainichi: ‘I thought a bomb had fallen. My heart was in my mouth. Even after we turned back to Naha, the plane continued to shake, and I was worried whether we would be able to land safely.’

The JAL plane made an emergency landing. There were no injuries among the 11 crew or 178 passengers, local media reported. 

On the ground, the external cover of the left engine was found to have fallen off.

Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) said on December 28 that two of the left engine’s fan blades were damaged, one from fatigue fracture. Damage was also seen in other parts of the plane including the engine cowl and fuselage.

While what specifically caused the engine to fail remains under investigation by the JTSB, the frightening incident shares similarities with a near-identical occurrence involving a United Airlines Boeing 777 on Saturday.

In that incident, UA Flight 328 suffered a catastrophic failure to its right engine just 20 minutes after taking off. The engine caught fire and scattered debris on the ground below, narrowly missing homes and other buildings.

Destined for Hawaii, the pilot was forced to reverse the plane’s course back to Denver International Airport.

The JAL plane made an emergency landing. There were no injuries among the 11 crew or 178 passengers, local media reported

Officials said at the time that the left engine malfunction at approximately 16,000-17,000 feet

JAPAN: The JAL plane made an emergency landing. There were no injuries among the 11 crew or 178 passengers, local media reported

Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) said on December 28 that two of the left engine¿s fan blades were found damaged, one from fatigue fracture. Damage was also seen in other parts of the plane including the engine cowl and fuselage (file photo)

Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) said on December 28 that two of the left engine’s fan blades were found damaged, one from fatigue fracture. Damage was also seen in other parts of the plane including the engine cowl and fuselage (file photo)

Two people are injured after Boeing cargo plane engine catches fire, dropping debris onto a Dutch town 

Two people have been injured after the jet engine of a Boeing cargo plane burst into flames shortly after taking off in the Netherlands.

Debris from the 747-400 jet fell on the Dutch town of Meerssen on Sunday afternoon when it got into trouble shortly after taking off from Maastricht airport.

An elderly woman was left with a head injury after being hit by a piece of the engine while a young child burned their hand by picking up another bit of smoldering metal. 

The 747 jet involved in the accident in the Netherlands was using a Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engine, a smaller version of one involved in the explosion over Denver.

Dutch safety inspectors said the 747 aircraft belonged to Bermuda-based Longtail Aviation and had taken off from Maastricht airport around 4.10pm on Sunday.

The aircraft was bound for New York JFK airport and was due to pass through UK airspace, skirting Sheffield and Manchester along the way.

But it got into trouble moments after takeoff, causing debris to rain from the sky.  

Executing a ‘textbook’ emergency landing, remarkably none of the 231 passengers and crew on board were harmed, nor were any people injured by falling debris on the ground.

The National Transportation Safety Board are investigating what caused the engine to fail.

Similarly to the incident in Japan, officials with NTSB have revealed that two of the plane’s engine fan blades were ‘fractured’ and the remaining blades all exhibited signs of damage, but said it’s too early to draw conclusions as to how.

NTSB investigations can take up to a year or longer to complete, although in major cases the agency generally releases some investigative material midway through the process.

In the meantime, Boeing has requested all 128 planes of its Boeing 777-200’s that use Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines to be grounded until further notice.

United and Japan’s two main airlines – Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways – confirmed they have already suspended operations of 56 planes fitted with the same engine which disintegrated mid-flight over Colorado on Saturday.

United, the only US carrier with the PW400 in its fleet, accounts for 24 of those aircraft, while the Japanese operators have 32.

South Korea is the only other country using the same combination of a Boeing 777-200’s with a Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines – although operations have not been suspended there, with officials there awaiting instructions from Korean regulators. A further 59 of the total 128 planes are not in service.

Kurokawa expressed his relief over the move, adding that he found it incredibly difficult to watch footage of UA382, which surfaced in abundance across social media over the weekend.

‘Watching videos of the United Airlines flight and engines in flames brought back the fear I experienced,’ he said.

DENVER: United Airlines said late Sunday it will immediately halt all flights by its fleet of 24 Boeing 777 airplanes with the same type of engine involved in Saturday's emergency landing in Denver. Pictures taken from the ground show the jet's engine on fire and trailing smoke on Saturday

DENVER: United Airlines said late Sunday it will immediately halt all flights by its fleet of 24 Boeing 777 airplanes with the same type of engine involved in Saturday’s emergency landing in Denver. Pictures taken from the ground show the jet’s engine on fire and trailing smoke on Saturday 

In a statement released yesterday evening, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said: ‘After consulting with my team of aviation safety experts about yesterday’s engine failure aboard a Boeing 777 airplane in Denver, I have directed them to issue an Emergency Airworthiness Directive that would require immediate or stepped-up inspections of Boeing 777 airplanes equipped with certain Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines.

‘This will likely mean that some airplanes will be removed from service,’ he added.

Dickson said that his team has ‘reviewed all available safety data following yesterday’s incident,’ and ‘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’.

According to Dickson, the FAA ‘is working closely with other civil aviation authorities to make this information available to affected operators in their jurisdictions’.

He said his team will be meeting with Pratt & Whitney and Boeing ‘to finalize the details of the Airworthiness Directive and any accompanying service bulletins to ensure that the appropriate airplanes are included in the order’.

Meanwhile, Japan has requested airlines avoid using Boeing 777 planes with Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines for take-offs, landings and overflights in its territory until further notice, the Japan Aeronautical Service Information Center said.

Japan said on Sunday that 32 passenger jets that use the same family of engine as the Boeing 777 involved in the Denver incident have been grounded.

The planes affected by the order from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, are 13 aircraft operated by Japan Airlines.

The other 19 planes are operated by All Nippon Airways. None of the planes are scheduled to fly on Monday.  

In the UK, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said all PW4000-equipped Boeing 777s would be banned from flying in British air space.

In a tweet, Shapps wrote: ‘After issues this weekend, Boeing B777s with Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 series engines will be temporarily banned from entering the UK airspace. I will continue to work closely with the UK CAA to monitor the situation’.

DENVER: The Broomfield Police Department posted photos on Twitter showing large, circular pieces of debris leaning against a house in the suburb about 25 miles north of Denver

DENVER: The Broomfield Police Department posted photos on Twitter showing large, circular pieces of debris leaning against a house in the suburb about 25 miles north of Denver 

DENVER: Pieces of the aircraft landed on a football field as seen in the above image posted to Twitter by a local resident in Broomfield

DENVER: Pieces of the aircraft landed on a football field as seen in the above image posted to Twitter by a local resident in Broomfield

Speaking to the Today show on Monday morning, Greg Feith, a former NTSB air safety investigator, expressed his concern over not only how the engine came to be damaged in the first place, but that it caught fire and continued to burn until landing.

When asked what would’ve happened to those on board if the engine failure happened over the Pacific, Feith said: ‘Well there’s two parts to that answer, and that is one: the FAA requires that a manufacturer of a two engine aircraft like this certify it so that it can fly with one engine – which it did successfully.

‘However, had this aircraft been over the ocean for an hour, or two hours, the bigger concern, besides the parts coming off, is the fact is there is this post-event fire. And I’m not sure why that fire continued to burn, because there is a fire suppression system in that engine.’

Another cause for concern, Feith said, was how the frame of the engine continued to fall apart, sending debris raining down on the ground below.

‘These [engine] blades – blades – this is the fan section so these are the largest blades of the engine – and if they come out of the engine like they did, of course it took the engine’s casing.

‘With the plane travelling at 200 to 300 miles per hour, the aerodynamic forces helped take the rest of this engine covering off – that is a big concern because the engine does have something called a containment frame so that shrapnel does not damage the rest of the engine.’

United, meanwhile, said it will be working closely with the FAA and the NTSB ‘to determine any additional steps that are needed to ensure these aircraft meet our rigorous safety standards and can return to service.’

The NTSB said the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were transported to its lab in Washington for the data to be downloaded and analyzed.

Flames could be seen coming from the engine of the plane after it exploded at 15,000 feet

Flames could be seen coming from the engine of the plane after it exploded at 15,000 feet 

Former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall called the incident another example of ‘cracks in our culture in aviation safety [that] need to be addressed’.

Hall, who was on the board from 1994 to 2001, has criticized the FAA over the past decade as ‘drifting toward letting the manufacturers provide the aviation oversight that the public was paying for’.

Pratt & Whitney, meanwhile, said it was ‘actively co-ordinating’ with planemakers and federal regulators after the FAA called for emergency inspections, adding that it had dispatched a team to work with investigators looking at what went wrong on Saturday’s flight.

In a separate blow to Pratt & Whitney, which is one of the three major players in the aircraft engine market along with General Electric and Britain’s Rolls-Royce, another of its engines was involved in a similar incident in the Netherlands on Sunday which saw a Boeing 747 freighter drop debris onto a Dutch town, injuring two people.

Shares in Pratt and Whitney’s parent company, Raytheon, plunged on Monday morning, following the two incidents in Denver and the Netherlands.

Raytheon had suffered a 2.77 per cent drop as of 7am EST in a blow to one of the main players in the aircraft engine market and a boost to its competitors including Britain’s Rolls-Royce and Boston-based General Electric.

The incident adds to a myriad of problems that has recently besieged Boeing, including the grounding of the 737 Max, the delay of the 777X, and quality concerns with the 787 Dreamliner.

‘This is certainly an unwelcome situation for both Boeing and Pratt, but from time to time issues will pop up with aircraft and engines,’ said Greg Waldron, a managing editor at industry publication Flight Global.




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