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EDM Monday Briefing: United Grounds Boeing 777s after Engine Failure

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for February 22, 2021: United Airlines flight UA328 suffered an uncontained right engine failure on takeoff out of Denver; one of two reactors at a Texas nuclear plant shut down automatically during the winter storm that recently impacted the state; a recent study suggests solar panels may cause catastrophic global harm when used in the Sahara Desert; the NHC releases upcoming 2021 hurricane season names; the SolarWinds hack included OEMs, likely exposing critical infrastructure to hackers; Kroger announced it was affected by the hack of a third party data-transfer product; Mount Etna erupted for the fourth time in an ongoing nearly cyclical eruption; and United Airlines voluntarily grounded 777 aircraft with the same engine type involved in Saturday’s engine failure incident after FAA regulators ordered stepped-up inspections.

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1. United Airlines suffered an uncontained engine failure on Saturday while departing Denver International Airport. The aircraft, N772UA, a Boeing 777-200, was operating Flight UA328, bound for Honolulu, when its right engine failed on takeoff. The failure resulted in engine debris falling onto neighborhoods west of the airport, including Broomfield.

2. One of two reactors shut down at the South Texas Nuclear Power Station, southwest of Houston, during the winter storm that impacted the state last week. Nuclear officials noted that the shutdown of the reactor occurred from a disruption in a feedwater pump to the reactor. Safety protocols triggered an automatic shutdown of the reactor to prevent any issues with the reactor.

3. A recent study suggests that solar panels in the Sahara Desert may actually do considerable harm to the earth’s climate. The study identified solar panel impacts on complex feedbacks across the earth, including the atmosphere, the oceans, the land and its ecosystems, and how they interact together. Unintended consequences are highly likely to occur, including a marked increase in local temperatures that would spread globally but not uniformly, due to the excess heat produced by the dark panels.

4. The 2021 hurricane season begins in just over three months on June 1. As the season approaches, the National Hurricane Center has released the names for the upcoming 2021 season. The preliminary forecast for the 2021 season suggests that it has a 65% chance of being an above-normal season.

5. The SolarWinds hack affected more than a dozen critical infrastructure companies. Among those impacted were electric, oil and manufacturing industries, along with those companies that specialize in industrial control system security. Known as OEMs, or original equipment manufacturers, these companies often have remote access to customer networks — potentially causing network exposure.

6. Kroger announced that it experienced a data breach in December that involved a third-party vendor’s software. The December hack impacted the Accellion product known as FTA, a file-transfer product that is used to share sizable email attachments or large data amounts. Other companies affected by the hack include Jones Day, the University of Colorado and Washington State’s Auditor.

7. A fourth eruption occurred at Mount Etna on Saturday morning, with even more powerful lava fountains. The eruptions are occurring at nearly consistent intervals, with each of the four eruptions being about 35 hours apart. However, reports indicate that with the last eruption, lava fountains were higher and of longer duration, and lava is now flowing down toward Valle del Bone. Although there is no threat to inhabited areas by the lava, lapilli or ash,  the ash plumes do pose a danger to aircraft in the area.

8. Following the engine failure of one of its Boeing 777s on Saturday, United Airlines has grounded 24 of its in-service 777 aircraft. The company was ordered by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulators to step up inspections of its 777 aircraft with the same engines to ensure the safety of the airplanes. An initial investigation into Saturday’s incident by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found two of the unique hollow fan blades of the engine were fractured and several others were damaged.

Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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