Boeing 747 cargo plane drops engine parts in Netherlands

AMSTERDAM – An incident involving a Boeing 747-400 cargo plane, in which engine parts were dropped after an air explosion and fire over the southern Netherlands on Saturday, is currently under investigation, the Dutch Safety Board said.

The Longtail Aviation freighter, Flight 5504, scattered small pieces of metal over the Dutch city of Meerssen, causing damage and injuring a woman shortly after take-off, said Maastricht Airport spokeswoman Hella Hendriks.

The Bermudan-registered aircraft that flew from Maastricht to New York was also powered on Saturday by Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, a smaller version of those of a United Airlines Boeing 777 that was involved in an incident in Denver.

Following this incident, Boeing recommended that airlines cease operating certain older versions of their 777 airliner powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines, variants currently flown by five airlines.

US regulators announced additional inspections and Japan discontinued use while further action was considered.

In the Dutch incident, witnesses heard an explosion or two shortly after takeoff and the pilot was informed by air traffic control that an engine was on fire, Hendriks said.

“The photos show that they were part of the engine blade, but that is being investigated,” she said. “Several cars were damaged and parts hit several houses. Pieces were found on roofs, gardens and streets all over the residential area.”

Longtail Aviation said it was “too early to speculate what might have been causing the problem” and it was working with Dutch, Belgian, Bermudan and UK authorities to investigate the incident.

Dozens of pieces fell, said Hendriks, about five centimeters wide and up to 25 centimeters long. The plane landed safely at Li├Ęge Airport in Belgium, about 30 km south of the Dutch border.

Boeing referred questions to the Dutch authorities.

“Our investigation is still in a preliminary phase. It is too early to draw any conclusions,” said a spokeswoman for the Dutch security committee on Monday.

The European aviation authority, EASA, said Monday that it was aware of the incidents involving Pratt & Whitney engines and was requesting information on the causes in order to determine what action might be required.

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