Former pilot recounts engine failure similar to Boeing 777s flight over Colorado in February

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HEBER CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Robert Wren worked as a pilot for 40 years, and February’s dramatic images of an engine on fire — with debris landing in a Colorado neighborhood — brought back memories.

In the ’90s, as a pilot for United, he was flying a Boeing 777 with a Pratt and Whitney Engine — that’s the same plane, with the same company’s engine as last week’s engine failure.

Just after take off, he says one of the engine’s failed.

“We hear — kaboom! And one of the engines just quit. It just stopped going,” said Wren.

That’s when his training kicked in — even as those watching from the ground watched.

“The people on the ground saw the flames come out of the back of the engine,” said Wren.

Wren says the 777 is designed to land — and technically, to take off — with just one engine. It’s how the pilot last weekend landed the plane safely, and how he did so all those years ago.

Pilots are trained so extensively for every possible problem, he says, and that training kicks in when an engine fails.

Pratt and Whitney’s engine should not have dropped debris from the sky, and their engines have failed three times during flights in three years worldwide. Investigations are ongoing into what happened.

But, statistically speaking, Wren says flying is incredibly safe.

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