In a statement, Japan Airlines Co Ltd (JAL) said, it had retired its fleet of 13 Boeing Co 777s equipped with Pratt & Whitney engines a year earlier than planned. The development comes in the wake of a February 2021 incident when an engine on a United Airlines plane shed debris.
“JAL has decided to accelerate the retirement of all P&W equipped Boeing 777 by March 2021, which (was) originally planned by March 2022,” said JAL in a notice on its website.
The airlines would use newer Airbus SE A350s on domestic routes to Osaka’s Itami Airport and use international planes for other domestic routes to help maintain flight frequencies.
The demand for flights is currently lowe because of the coronavirus-induced COVID-19 pandemic.
Incidentally, the Japanese airlines had a close close of its own with the PW4000 engines in December 2020, when a malfunction forced a Tokyo-bound JAL 777 to return to Naha airport.
Pratt & Whitney’s PW4000 engines are found only on a small number of older 777s operated by United Airlines Holdings Inc, Asiana Airlines Inc, Jin Air Co Ltd, JAL, ANA Holdings Inc, and Korean Air Lines Co Ltd.
Earlier this year in February, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration had ordered an immediate inspection of all 777 planes equipped with PW4000 engines. The National Transportation Safety Board had found a cracked fan blade on the United flight which was consistent with metal fatigue.
According to a spokeswoman for Pratt, fan blades would need to be shipped to its repair station in East Hartford, Connecticut, for inspection, including those from airlines in Japan and South Korea.
Analysts have opined that airlines are likely to speed up retirement plans of the planes as a result of the need for additional checks.