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Japan grounds more than 30 jets after United Airlines engine fire

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    Kyodo News

Tokyo, Japan   /   Mon, February 22, 2021   /   12:24 pm
Japan grounds more than 30 jets after United Airlines engine fire A Boeing 777/200 of United Airlines is seen at the gate at Denver International Airport (DIA) on July 30, 2020, in Denver, Colorado. (Agence France Presse/Daniel Slim)

Japan's transport ministry ordered Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways to ground more than 30 aircraft equipped with Pratt and Whitney engines after a United Airlines plane with the same power plant caught fire after take-off from Denver over the weekend.

The airlines had already taken the planes out of service -- 13 operated by JAL and 19 by ANA -- before the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism issued the order Sunday.

A Pratt and Whitney PW4000 engine powering a Boeing 777-200 bound for Honolulu failed on take-off Saturday, scattering debris over a residential area near Denver. The plane was able to return to Denver airport and land safely.

This handout photo courtesy of Broomfield Police Department shows debris fallen from a United Airlines airplane's engine in a the neighborhood of Broomfield, outside Denver, Colorado, on February 20, 2021. A United Airlines flight suffered a fiery engine failure February 20, shortly after taking off from Denver on its way to Hawaii, dropping massive debris on a residential area before a safe emergency landing, officials said.This handout photo courtesy of Broomfield Police Department shows debris fallen from a United Airlines airplane's engine in a the neighborhood of Broomfield, outside Denver, Colorado, on February 20, 2021. A United Airlines flight suffered a fiery engine failure February 20, shortly after taking off from Denver on its way to Hawaii, dropping massive debris on a residential area before a safe emergency landing, officials said. (Agence France Presse/Broomfield Police Department)

The grounding of the 32 planes caused a cancellation of one JAL flight from Okinawa Prefecture's Naha to Tokyo's Haneda on Sunday. JAL and ANA said they are substituting other aircraft and there will be no flight cancellations from Monday onwards.

On Dec. 4, an engine on a JAL plane operating a Naha to Haneda service experienced trouble, forcing the aircraft to make an emergency landing. It was the same Pratt and Whitney engine and the ministry had since instructed JAL and ANA to inspect aircraft using the power plant more frequently than usual.

The ministry said it is investigating whether additional measures are required to ensure the safety of the engines.

JAL and the ministry concluded that the incident in December was caused by fan blade damage.