WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A West Palm Beach aviation expert is weighing in on what may have happened to United Airlines flight 328.
The flight was heading to Honolulu from Denver on Saturday when it had to make an emergency landing at Denver International Airport after its right engine blew apart just after takeoff. Pieces of the casing of the engine, a Pratt & Whitney PW4000, rained down on suburban neighborhoods. The plane, with 231 passengers and 10 crew on board, landed safely, and nobody aboard or on the ground was reported hurt, authorities said.
West Palm Beach aviation expert David Bjellos said no matter how alarming the images may be, this hardly happens.
"This is not something they should be concerned in the slightest, because it is such a rare occurrence," said Bjellos.
He explained that the plane may have had an uncontained engine failure.
"The fan blade probably shed, and that's probably why parts fell into the Denver area," said Bjellos.
According to Bjellos, the pilots train for this type of situation at least twice a year with both simulator and aircraft.
"It was not during a critical phase of flight, what we call takeoff and landing. It was not that big of a deal," said Bjellos. "So, from a pilot's perspective, this was en route or a climb failure that they shut the engine down. They had plenty of air speeds and came back in and landed. I think they did a very decent job."
He said this incident shouldn't discourage anyone from flying because, again he reiterated, it was such a rare occurrence.
Federal aviation regulators are ordering United Airlines to step up inspections of all Boeing 777s equipped with the type of engine that suffered a catastrophic failure Saturday over Denver. United said it is temporarily removing those aircraft from service.
Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement Sunday that, based on an initial review of safety data, inspectors "concluded that the inspection interval should be stepped up for the hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine, used solely on Boeing 777 airplanes."
The National Transportation Safety Board said in a separate statement that two of the engine's fan blades were fractured and the remainder of the fan blades "exhibited damage." The NTSB did caution that it was too early to draw conclusions about how the incident happened.