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Another Boeing plane makes emergency landing with potential engine issue

Boeing 777X jetliners are seen parked at Boeing's airplane production facility on Feb. 22, 2021, in Everett, Washington. Following Saturday's engine failure on a Boeing 777 over Denver, the FAA issued an emergency inspection order for Boeing 777 aircraft with Pratt & Whitney engines. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

For the third time in three days, a Boeing jet with potential engine problems had to make an emergency landing. The latest came Monday night on a flight from Atlanta to Seattle.

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A Delta flight on a Boeing 757 diverted to Salt Lake City late Monday “out of an abundance of caution” when a cockpit warning alerted the flight crew to a potential engine issue. It landed safely with no apparent issues to the engine. The 16-year-old plane is powered by Pratt and Whitney engines, but not the same model type of the 777-200 that exploded over Denver on Saturday. The investigation on this flight is just getting started.

As for the United flight in Denver, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said they are looking at fan blade metal fatigue.

“Regarding the fan blade that was fractured at the root, a preliminary on-scene exam indicates damage consistent with metal fatigue,” he said.

This means it likely wasn’t the engine that failed, but the fan blades, not that any passenger cares. The video of the flaming engine to most passengers is an engine problem.

Both the engine and fan blades are being sent to Connecticut to Pratt and Whitney for analysis.

“The reason for the failure is what’s worrying all the investigators,” CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg said. “The reason may be metal fatigue, and if it’s metal fatigue of these fan blades that means it could be metal fatigue of all fan blades that are built for this particular engine model. The implications of that are pretty severe.”

That’s why United pulled its fleet of 777-200s with Pratt and Whitney engines, and it’s why Japan did the same in December after a similar incident.

Aviation insider Richard Aboulafia said the engine that failed had plenty of hands on it. You have the manufacturer and the airline to investigate.

“There’s nothing fundamental to the aircraft engines’ design here,” he said. “It is mostly likely maintenance procedures and maybe aging issues associated with this particular type of engine.”

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As for the third incident, it was engine failure on a 747-400 over the Netherlands. Investigators say this exploding engine is unrelated to the one that exploded over Denver. It did involve a Pratt and Whitney engine, but not the same model of engine.

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