The 777 is a large, two-aisle aircraft typically used for long haul flights. The first passenger flight operated by United took place in 1995. To date, Boeing has delivered more than 1,600 jets to customers around the world, around 200 of which are freighters. Only 174 of the 1,600 jets were equipped with Pratt & Whitney engines, the last of which was delivered to the South Korean airline Asiana Airlines in 2013. More than 1,250 of the jets were powered by GE Aviation engines and the remainder by Rolls-Royce engines.
In recent years, airlines have increasingly preferred smaller, single-aisle aircraft, a trend accelerated by the pandemic that left few people flown internationally.
Sunday’s FAA order came hours after the Japanese aviation authority ordered All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines to cease using the 777 with the Pratt & Whitney engine.
“We have ordered the aircraft to cease operations while we consider the need for additional measures,” Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure Transportation and Tourism wrote in an announcement on its website.
In the statement, the department said it had instructed airlines to step up engine inspections after a “serious incident” on December 4th with a 777 with a Pratt & Whitney engine. Shortly after taking off from Naha Airport in Okinawa that day, Japan Airlines Flight 904 turned around due to a problem with the left engine, according to the ministry. A subsequent investigation by the ministry revealed damage to the fan blades and the engine hood.
In late January, the ministry concluded that the episode was caused by metal fatigue in the fan blades and ordered domestic airlines to step up inspections of similarly built engines. The engine for this December 4th flight was a Pratt and Whitney PW4074.
A spokesman for Japan Airlines said the airline decided on Sunday – before the aviation authority issued its order – to stop using the 13 Boeing 777s in its Pratt & Whitney-powered fleet. Only three scheduled flights were affected. The airline announced last year that it would remove all 13 aircraft from its fleet by early 2022. The airline also operates 22 Boeing 777s powered by GE Aviation’s engines, which are not affected by the order.