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EAST HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT - Inspector training problems at jet engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney were a probable cause of an engine failure on a 2018 United Airlines flight over the Pacific Ocean, the National Transportation Safety Board has reported.

As a result of a lack of training, a Pratt & Whitney inspector made an incorrect evaluation and an engine fan blade with a crack was returned to service where it eventually fractured on the Boeing 777, the NTSB said.

Pratt & Whitney classified its inspection process as a “new and emerging technology” that allowed it to continue its inspections without developing a “formal, defined initial and recurrent training program or an inspector certification program,” 

NTSB said.

Pratt & Whitney, the East Hartford subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies Corp., said in an email that as a result of the NTSB investigation, it has deployed corrective actions that address the cause of the event.

Federal investigators also cited a lack of feedback from engineers on the fan blades the Pratt & Whitney inspectors sent for an evaluation of what they found.

The San Francisco-to-Honolulu flight, with 374 passengers and crew, landed safely in Hawaii Feb. 13, 2018. The flight was about 120 miles from Honolulu “when there was a violent jolt and very loud bang that both pilots stated was followed by extreme airframe vibrations,” the NTSB said.

The pilots reported that immediately after the jolt and loud bang, the autopilot disconnected and the airplane began to roll to the right, federal investigators said. Pieces of the engine tore into the fuselage, causing two small punctures.

The fan blade set had last been overhauled by Pratt & Whitney in July 2015, the federal agency said. Pratt & Whitney inspectors attributed the origin of a crack to a defect in paint and allowed the blade to continue the overhaul process and be returned to service.

Image Credit: The photo of the incident provided by passenger Haley Ebert shows damage to an engine on a Boeing 777 after parts came off the engine during a flight from San Francisco to Honolulu on Feb. 13, 2018. The plane landed safely as emergency responders waited nearby. The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday cited training problems at jet engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.
Source: Courant

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