National air carrier Garuda Indonesia has assured that its Boeing 777-300ER fleet are safe for flight as regulators in other countries scrutinize a similar aircraft model.
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Garuda Indonesia said its 10 Boeing 777-300ERs were different from the Boeing B777-200s that had been grounded in Japan and were under investigation in the United States following a non-fatal incident a few days earlier.
Garuda’s model has General Electric GE90-115B engines, while the other has Pratt & Whitney (P&W) 4000-112 engines, which was the type behind the mid-flight breakdown of United Airlines Flight 328 on Saturday.
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“As a precautionary step, Garuda Indonesia has inspected its entire B777-300ER fleet. The inspection shows all parts are serviceable and fit to fly,” said Garuda president director Irfan Saputra in a statement on Monday night.
He added that the inspection results had been handed over to the Transportation Ministry’s Airworthiness and Aircraft Operation Directorate (DKPPU), which oversees aircraft maintenance standards.
Garuda’s statement comes after Japan ordered on Sunday two Japanese air carriers to suspend use of its 777s with P&W 4000 engines, while the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), also on Sunday, ordered extra inspections of the models.
Aircraft debris fell over a suburb in Denver, Colorado, after United Airlines Flight 328, carrying 231 passengers and 10 crew members, experienced a right engine failure soon after takeoff, engulfing the right wing in flames. The plane, fortunately, landed safely at Denver International Airport with no reported casualties.
In response, Boeing recommended that air carriers suspend the operation of a total of 128 777s powered by P&W 4000 engines, until the FAA identifies the appropriate inspection protocol.
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Read also: Boeing calls for grounding of some 777s after Denver engine failure
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“We are working with these regulators as they take actions while these planes are on the ground and further inspections are conducted by Pratt & Whitney,” the company wrote in a statement on Sunday.
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Other air carriers have since grounded their 777s with P&W 4000 engines, including United Airlines, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines. The engine generally serves older planes.
Garuda last grounded a Boeing aircraft in March 2019 at the behest of Indonesia's Transportation Ministry. The company was ordered to ground its sole Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft after another of the popular jetliner models crashed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, killing all 157 people on board, just five months after the same model belonging to Indonesian carrier Lion Air crashed into the Java Sea, killing all passengers and crew.
Read also: Lion Air, Garuda scrutinize Boeing MAX 8 fleet
Garuda’s statement is also meant to reassure customers over company services as it faces a sharp financial crunch due to domestic and international travel restrictions last year. The company booked a US$1.07 billion loss between January and September last year, a reversal from the $122.4 million profit it saw in the same period last year.
Garuda’s shares rose 1.23 percent to Rp 328 apiece on Tuesday closing. It has lost 15.03 percent of its value since the beginning of the year.
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Following yesterday's incident, where a United Airlines Boeing 777 suffered an engine failure after departure from Denver, the FAA declared that all Boeing 777s equipped with Pratt & Whitney PW4070 engines would be grounded until further notice. This would allow for a more thorough investigation in the matter whilst ensuring the safety of passengers on these aircraft.
Yesterday's incident occurred aboard N772UA, one of United's domestically-configured 777-200s. These aircraft are not extended range and are usually utilized on United's domestic high-capacity routes, such as SFO-ORD, LAX-ORD, IAH-DEN, and DEN-HNL (the route in which UA328 was flying yesterday). United's 777-200, contrary to their 777-200ER, feature 28 business class seats in a 2-4-2 configuration. Even-numbered rows are facing backward, providing window seats an unobstructed view of the engine, specifically that in which the failure occurred.
A few hours ago, United Airlines released a statement, stating that 'out of an abundance of caution, [the airline] is removing 24 Boeing 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engines from [their] schedule.' The airline also assured the public of its increased safety precautions around similar aircraft that are in service. They are working closely with the FAA and NTSB to 'determine any additional steps that are needed to ensure [their] aircraft meet [their] rigorous safety standards and can return to service.'
The FAA issued a directive today as well that ordered the care given to the maintenance inspection of these aircraft to be heightened. Specifically, the FAA cites the 'hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine' as the reason for the attack.
More information will be released when it becomes available.