New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority bans Boeing 777s from flying in NZ airspace

Aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), has added New Zealand to a growing list of countries where certain Boeing 777s have been banned from operating.

The move follows the shocking recent engine failure of a United Airlines Boeing 777 equipped with a Pratt and Whitney 4000 series engine, while flying over Denver on February 20. No one was injured in the incident and the aircraft landed safely.

United Airlines has already grounded their affected aircraft.

Dean Winter, CAA's deputy Chief Executive said they'll be making all airlines and pilots aware that 777s with the 4000 series Pratt and Whitney engines are not authorised to fly within New Zealand airspace.

"We are issuing a 'notice to airmen,' (known as a NOTAM) today which effectively prevents this aircraft type from landing or taking off within New Zealand domestic airspace or transiting through it," Winter said.

A NOTAM is an official communication issued by an aviation authority to alert pilots and airline dispatchers of potential dangers in a flight route, or to changes in permitted flight routes.

"We are taking this action out of an abundance of caution to prevent any potential threat to people or property, should another engine experience a similar fan blade failure like the incident in Denver," he said.

"We have quickly joined the aviation regulators in the United Kingdom and Japan in taking this action. We also note Boeing has recommended the suspension of all 777 with the affected engines until the cause of this failure is known. 

"We anticipate that an emergency airworthiness directive will be issued by the United States Federal Aviation Administration to further clarify and take action on this situation."

The move won't affect our current aviation situation as there are no Boeing 777s with the 4000 series Pratt and Whitney engines operated by any New Zealand-based airlines.

"We are quite satisfied that there is enough evidence to take this action in the interest of keeping New Zealand's skies safe and secure," Winter said.

Air New Zealand confirmed all of its Boeing 777 fleet are equipped with Rolls Royce or GE engines, and are currently in storage. 

No other Air New Zealand aircraft have Pratt and Whitney PW4000 engines either.