United Airlines' A321neo Experiences Engine Failure, Returns to Chicago

By Ivan PetrenkoJan 28, 2024 01:40 AMNews
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United Airlines plane in the sky
United Airlines plane in the sky. Source: unsplash

In a recent aviation incident, a United Airlines Airbus A321neo was compelled to make an unexpected return to Chicago following an engine failure. This event occurred shortly after the aircraft, with registration N14503, began its service, highlighting ongoing concerns in the aviation industry regarding engine reliability and passenger safety.

Engine Malfunction Leads to Emergency Landing

On January 24th, United flight UA777, bound from Chicago O'Hare International Airport to Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport, experienced a critical engine issue. The flight, operated by an Airbus A321neo, was carrying 186 passengers and crew. According to Flightradar24 data, the flight departed with a significant delay of over 75 minutes. During the ascent, at around 20,000 feet, the crew halted the climb due to the failure of one of the aircraft's engines, a Pratt & Whitney PW1133G-JM. The engine was promptly shut down, and the plane safely returned to Chicago without further incidents.

Pratt & Whitney's Engine Troubles

The engine involved belongs to Pratt & Whitney's Geared Turbofan (GTF) family, which has been controversial due to production defects leading to extensive groundings for inspections and repairs. Notably, issues with powdered metal in some turbine disks, affecting engines manufactured between 2015 and 2021, have been identified. However, given the recent commissioning of N14503, it likely featured a newer engine model. The severity of these issues prompted Pratt & Whitney to launch a program titled 'Roadmap to the future' aimed at improving engine durability and reducing maintenance times, especially in challenging climates.

The New Addition to United's Fleet

The aircraft in question, N14503, had only been operating with United Airlines for two weeks, having commenced its first commercial flight on January 10, 2023. Its utilization prior to the incident was minimal, with a daily average of just over six hours. Following the engine shutdown, the A321neo has remained grounded in Chicago, pending further investigation. Simple Flying has reached out to both United Airlines and Pratt & Whitney for comments.

Broader Fleet Challenges for United Airlines

This incident adds to the list of fleet challenges United Airlines has faced recently. Earlier this year, the airline dealt with issues related to the Boeing 737 MAX 9, including "loose bolts" found during inspections after the Alaska Airlines door plug incident. While Alaska Airlines has resumed flights with the MAX 9, United Airlines is preparing to follow suit.

This event serves as a stark reminder of the complexities and challenges in modern aviation, emphasizing the importance of rigorous maintenance and safety protocols.

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