This time, it is United Airlines and the plane type in question is the Boeing 777. UA has grounded their entire fleet of 777s as of Tuesday to inspect fire suppression systems in the cargo area. The inspections are happening relatively quickly, and the planes are cycling back into service, but the service interruptions are huge. UA operates ~50 of the 777s, using them on a bunch of their international routes and some of their service to Hawaii.
This appears to be a follow-on to the FAA check-ups on their maintenance history from the past few years, where apparently they didn’t actually bother to do most of the inspections, but they still signed off on them. There was a pattern of deferred maintenance, as well, where the carriers just delayed the work instead of actually doing it, and the FAA didn’t seem to mind. Not surprisingly the FAA’s director recently departed to take a job in the industry.
A lot of airlines operate the 777s, unlike the recent MD80/90 groundings, so if this turns out to be a problem with the plane’s maintenance rather than United’s handling of their maintenance obligation then the impact of this issue will be rather catastrophic for the industry. Then again, UA recently had some issues with the wiring of the brakes in some of their Airbus A320s that noone else had, so it might just be them.
It is bad when the agency entrusted to ensure the safety of aviation completely ignores their primary mission. Whoopsie.
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