Putting 777 incidents into perspective

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by Glenn Farley / KING5 News Aviation Specialist

Bio | Email | Follow: @GlennFarley

KING5.com

Posted on July 14, 2014 at 7:04 PM

SEATTLE - Over the weekend there are two incidents involving Boeing 777s.  One was aboard United flight 201 from Honolulu to Guam, when an electrical smell had pilots diverting to the runway on Midway Island in the Pacific Ocean.  Yes, that Midway Island, the site of the famous naval battle between the U.S. and Japan during World War II.

But while Midway Island is not a commercial airport, it is available in emergencies. There is still a large 2 1/2-mile long, lighted runway there complete with an instrument landing system.

"It's on an island that has a runway that's perfectly usable by a big jet," said pilot and air safety analyst John Nance, who landed there personally during his military flying days in the Air Force. 

United today says the problem was with a cooling supply fan and the plane has been returned to service.

In another incident on Sunday out of New York, an Air India flight to Mumbai had to return to the airport after flames were seen coming from its left engine.  Flames are unusual, but not unheard of,  particularly involving so called "compresser stalls."  Boeing says it has not been contacted by Air India for assistance indicating the airline is dealing with the engine issue on its own.

But with Malaysia flight 370 still missing since March in one of aviation's greatest mysteries, and the pilots largely blamed by the National Transportation Safety Board in the crash of an Asiana 777 at San Francisco International in 2013 that killed three, some passengers might wonder about the safety of the jet.

"Little things happen and people start saying wow! What's going on here?" said Nance, adding that with 1,200 777s now flying, the odds of something attracting attention are simply going to go up like it does for every other popular plane.  "These are totally disconnected. And any aircraft could have this happen." added Nance.

Boeing says the 19 years since the 777 entered service in 1995, the plane has made more than 5-million flights and flown 18-million flight hours.  Even assuming the Malaysia jet crashed into the Southern Indian Ocean as many authorities and experts believe, only three tripple sevens have been destroyed connected to a flight.  The first involved a British Airways jet that landed just short of the runway at London's Heathrow airport in 2008 after ice formed in its jet fuel after a long flight from China. The ice blocked fuel flow to the engines just before touch down, but all passengers survived with minimal injuries.

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