Airline pilots often practice for engine failures such as may have occurred in Denver – CBS Denver

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DENVER (AP / CBS4) Aviation safety experts said United Airlines Flight 328 suffered an uncontrolled and catastrophic engine failure in the Denver subway area on Saturday. The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that the Boeing 777-200 returned to Denver International Airport shortly after takeoff after a right engine failure and no one was injured.

(Credit: CBS)

Flight 328 was flying from Denver to Honolulu when the incident occurred and debris fell in the neighborhoods of Broomfield, but no one was injured on the ground.

CONTINUE READING: Aircraft debris falls from the sky on the Broomfield neighborhoods

Such an event is extremely rare and occurs when giant spinning disks in the engine fail and damage the armored casing around the engine that is designed to contain the damage, said John Cox, an aviation safety expert and retired airline pilot, an aviation safety consultancy called Safety Operating Systems.

“This unbalanced disk is very powerful and spinning at several thousand revolutions per minute … and when you have that much centrifugal force it has to go somewhere,” he said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.

Pilots practice how to frequently deal with such an event and would have instantly turned off anything combustible in the engine, including fuel and hydraulic fluid, with a single switch, Cox said.

An airplane with smoke appearing to flow on the right side headed east towards Denver International Airport as viewed from Montview Boulevard and Peoria Street. (Photo Credit: Andy Cross / MediaNews Group / The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Former NTSB chairman Jim Hall cited the incident as yet another example of “cracks in our aviation safety culture that need to be addressed.

Hall, who served on the board from 1994 to 2001, criticized the FAA over the past decade as “a drift in letting manufacturers take over aviation oversight that the public paid for”. That is especially true of Boeing, he said.

CONTINUE READING: PHOTO GALLERY: Aircraft debris falling on Broomfield

Despite the scary appearance of a burning engine, most such incidents do not result in death, Cox said.

The most recent death on a US airline flight was an engine failure on a Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Dallas in April 2018. One passenger was killed when the engine disintegrated more than 30,000 feet over Pennsylvania and debris hit the aircraft and the window broke next to her seat. She was forced halfway out of the window before other passengers pulled her back inside.

In this case, the failure was attributed to a defective fan blade in a Boeing 737 engine. The Federal Aviation Administration ordered airlines to step up the inspection of fan blades on certain engines from CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric and France, Safran SA

In 2010 a Qantas Airbus A380 suffered a frightening engine failure shortly after taking off from Singapore. Grenade fragments damaged critical systems on the aircraft, but the pilots landed safely. The incident was attributed to the incorrect manufacture of a pipe in the Rolls-Royce engine.

“The flames terrify everyone. But they’re the least of a problem because you’ll put them out and turn off anything that can burn, ”said Cox.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)