United Airlines in recent days grounded more than two dozen Boeing 777-200s after missing required maintenance inspections.

“United Airlines removed 25 of its Boeing 777-200 airplanes from service after discovering that it failed to perform a required inspection on the wing leading-edge panels on these aircraft,” the Federal Aviation Administration said on 23 September. “The airline disclosed the matter to the FAA and proposed a plan to complete the inspections.”

The FAA is reviewing the plan and “looking into the circumstances that led to the missed inspections”.

United’s fleet includes 19 777-200s and 55 777-200ERs, according to Cirium fleet data.

United 777-200 United. Max KJ

Source: Max Kingsley-Jones/FlightGlobal

United Airlines removes 25 Boeing 777-200s from its fleet due to missed inspections

The Chicago-based carrier confirms the move, saying it cancelled 18 flights this week “to allow for inspections on the wing slats of some aircraft in our Boeing 777-200 fleet”.

“By Tuesday we had completed inspections on 10 of those aircraft, and are working with the FAA to return others to service while inspections are ongoing over the next two weeks,” the carrier says.

This is the second time this week that the airline’s ageing 777 fleet has had issues.

On 21 September, a United 777-200 experienced what the airline called a “hydraulic pump issue” shortly after take-off from Newark’s Liberty International airport, forcing the aircraft to return and land.

In a video circulating on social media, sparks appear to fly from the aircraft’s left wing root just after it departed from Newark’s runway 22 at 23:24 local time. There are also images of debris that fell onto a parking lot near the airport.

The aircraft bearing registration N787UA (MSN26939), operating as flight 149 to Sao Paulo, Brazil on 21 September, had 256 passengers aboard and landed safely at Newark.

United says the missed inspections were not related to this incident, nor to the engine issues that caused the carrier to ground its entire 777-200 fleet for more than a year after an in-flight engine failure in February 2021.

At that time, a United Boeing 777-200 bound for Hawaii suffered an engine failure just after take-off from Denver International airport. That incident saw part of a Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engine nacelle fall into in the front yard of a house in a Denver suburb, and various large metal pieces were strewn across a field. That aircraft also landed safely.

Investigators later attributed the engine failure to fan blades that had cracked due to metal fatigue. PW4000-powered 777s were grounded while all engine fan blades went through additional inspections. United said earlier this month that most of the 777-200s were back in service.