United Airlines is “unable to safely maintain the engines” of its ageing fleet of Boeing 777-200 aircraft, which is causing passengers to “fear for their lives”, according to a new class action lawsuit which has been filed by a married couple who contemplated their “fiery death” on a recent flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
Brandon Carroll and Sarah Jean Duprey were flying with their 11-month-old infant to Hawaii on a United Airlines flight on June 21, 2023, but the Boeing 777-200 operating the flight was forced to make an emergency landing a short time after takeoff when smoke from the engine started to fill the cabin.
In a new lawsuit filed in a California district court, Brandon and Sarah describe how they were left in “severe emotional distress” for around 25 minutes as they feared they would die as the plane diverted back to LAX.
Shortly after takeoff, passengers onboard the 27-year-old aircraft heard a loud “explosion” just before smoke started to fill the cabin. The pilots declared an emergency and diverted back to LAX, where they landed without incident.
The passengers, however, were shell-shocked by the events that had just unfolded, and Brandon and Sarah said they still have trouble sleeping, suffer nightmares and have a fear of flying due to what unfolded on flight UA1158.
But rather than being an isolated incident, the lawsuit alleges that United’s fleet of Boeing 777-200s has experienced a number of similar events in recent years, some of which have been very high profile.
For example, in 2021, a different United-operated 777-200 had just departed Denver International Airport when the engine exploded due to a fan blade breaking off, causing damage to a vehicle and house below the flight path.
A similar incident occurred on another 777-200 operated by United Airlines in 2018 on a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii.
The lawsuit cites a slew of other incidents dating back to 2016, including smoke in the cabin, engine failures and engines that had to be shut down in flight. The lawsuit excluded engine issues caused by bird strikes.
United’s 777-200s are powered by Pratt & Whitney PW4077 engines, which have been prone to defects linked to powder metal used to produce the engine, which can lead to cracks.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said deficiencies in engine design and testing, as well as a lack of inspections, were contributing factors in the 2021 United Airlines accident over Denver.
The lawsuit brought by Brandon and Sarah claims United should have stepped up inspections of its 777-200 engines following the 2018 accident but failed to do so because the FAA didn’t “explicitly require them to do so”.
If United had, however, carried out additional inspections, the lawsuit claims that similar engine failures wouldn’t have occurred.
The lawsuit warns: “While planes can, and do, land without crashing despite the failure of one engine, it is a highly dangerous condition requiring immediate landing at the nearest safe airport, and it is only a matter of time before a deadly disaster occurs on one of United’s 777-200s.”
The class-action lawsuit is being brought for all passengers aged over two years old on United flight 1158 on June 21, who feared for his or her life due to the engine explosion.
United Airlines declined to comment.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.