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Boeing hits another tailspin… and then another

Two engine malfunctions in Colorado and the Netherlands

By Ricky Browne

Not one, but two Boeing aircraft had engines that caught on fire and dropped debris on the towns below – one in Colorado and the other in the Netherlands.

On Sunday a Boeing 777 aircraft narrowly missed a tragic accident. Though no one was hurt, the incident is likely to put the beleaguered  American aircraft manufacturer into yet another tailspin.

The right engine caught on fire

The 777 jetliner is the latest of the Boeing aircraft models to be grounded after a serious engine failure.

But on Saturday, it was later reported, a Boeing 747 cargo plane, had an engine catch on fire on leaving  Maastricht heading for New York.

Boeing still hasn’t fully recovered from its 737 Max tragedy in 2019 when two accidents killed 346 passengers in Indonesia and Ethiopia, and saw the aircraft grounded for 18 months. The aircraft was only cleared to return to UK airspace in January, following similar decisions in the US and Canada.


On this occasion in Colorado, a 26-year-old United Airlines 777 airplane had to make an emergency landing shortly after take-off in Denver Colorado. The plane, United Airlines flight 328 was on route to Honolulu, Hawaii when it was hit by a severe malfunction in its right-hand engine. The 231 passengers landed safely and were unhurt.

Passengers recorded the engine on fire Photo: Chad Schnell

Video online shows the engine falling apart and on fire as the plane was still in flight.

Debris from the engine landed in gardens in a residential area of a town called Broomfield, a suburb that is about 20 miles north east of Denver.

The plane was fitted with a 4000-112 model engine manufactured by Pratt and Whitney.

Boeing has now recommended that all 777 planes with similar engines be grounded while investigations are carried out. United is believed to be the only American airline that uses that particular type of 777. Others are used in Japan by JAL and ANA airlines and in South Korea by Korean Airlines.

A large engine part landed in a garden in Broomfield, Colorado

There are 128 of the jets in operation, with only 69 of them in operation up to Sunday, and the remaining 59 already in storage.

“While [an] investigation is ongoing, we recommended suspending operations of the 69 in-service and 59 in-storage 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines,” Boeing said in a statement.

The UK has now banned the implicated aircraft from its airspace.


The airline has had less to say about the Maastricht event – where falling debris was lighter, but still managed to injure two people in the Dutch town of Meerssen – an elderly lady who had to be taken to hospital, and a little child who picked up one of the pieces and got burned.

A piece of debris from the 747 damaged this car in Meerssen Photo:  Veiligheidsegio Zuid-Limburg

The 747 also had Pratt and Witney engines – these ones were PW4000, a smaller version of the ones on the United Airlines plane.

The damaged Longtail Aviation 747

The Bermuda-based Longtail Aviation flight landed safely in Belgium.

But if the aircraft manufacturer was going to pick a time for two near-disaster like this, then now wasn’t a bad time, given that few people are flying anyway. Grounding the airplanes should have little effect on scheduling for the airlines involved. Many of the aircraft were in fact already grounded.


Last year Boeing made a record annual loss of almost US$12 billion, but thought that it was finally consigning  the 777 disasters to the past.

But these two latest incidents have now hit the company’s share price. Early on Monday Boeing shares dropped about four percent, pulling down the whole Dow Jones Index. Shares in the company still hadn’t recovered from the 2019 crashes, and are about 33 percent lower than they were in that year.

Meanwhile, Pratt and Whitney isn’t doing that well either. The company is a division of Raytheon Technologies, which saw its shares drop almost three percent on premarket trades.

A Boeing 777

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