United Airlines’ cargo schedule will be impacted by the carrier’s removal of 24 B777-200 aircraft following an engine failure of United flight 328 over the weekend.
With safety at the forefront, United says it is “voluntarily and temporarily” removing the B777-200 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engines. The carrier says it is working closely with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulators to determine whether additional steps are warranted.
Noting the aircraft are an important part of its widebody passenger fleet, United said in a customer update that it will be returning some cargo-only flights to passenger service to make up for the reduced passenger capacity.
“As we review options for swapping aircraft in for scheduled passenger flights, we will be readying planes that have been parked in storage, reconfiguring some cargo-only flights to return to the passenger schedule, and modifying the March cargo flight schedule,” it says.
Adding that it expects “limited impact” on cargo shipments through the end of this week, “we do, however, expect there to be adjustments to our March cargo flight schedule.
“Once we have determined the scope of these changes, we will communicate the updated schedule and reach out to customers who have shipments that have been impacted,” it adds.
The move to withdraw the aircraft type resulted from an incident on Saturday 27 February when a United flight from Denver to Honolulu experienced an uncontained engine failure shortly after departure, scattering debris across residential neighbourhoods. The preliminary investigation is focused on two fractured fan blades.
Following the incident, Boeing urged airlines to stop flying B777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines. The the FAA ordered an immediate stepping up of inspections of this particular aircraft/engine model.
There are 128 aircraft worldwide configured with this engine type, of which 69 are currently in service. United has another 28 of the type in storage. Five airlines operate B777-200s – United, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Asiana and Korean Air. All of the carriers have been in the process of phasing out the aircraft due to its age and relative inefficiency compared with B777-300s.