A plane engine fell apart in midair. The passengers on that SFO-to-Honolulu flight were amazing.

A plane engine fell apart in midair. The passengers on that SFO-to-Honolulu flight were amazing.
Passengers describe mid-air scare when engine cover rips off plane
nHigh over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, the casing blew off one of the engines on United Airlines Flight 1175.

Passengers heard a loud bang and felt the plane shake violently. Those seated on the right side looked out their windows and saw pieces of metal flying. By the time the plane touched down safely in Honolulu around 40 minutes later, the engine was bare, its innards on full display.

Michael Nielson, seated in the middle section of the twin-engine Boeing 777, said flight attendants told passengers to return to their seats immediately and fasten their seatbelts. “The plane shook violently for the better part of five minutes,” he said in an email. Later, “the shaking subsided to constant, heavy vibration that stuck around for the rest of the flight.”

It was not clear as of Tuesday evening what had caused the malfunction. Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said the agency was investigating.

Similar malfunctions have happened before. In 2016, an American Airlines flight from Phoenix to San Francisco turned back after part of the engine cowling fell off. A JetBlue flight from Newark to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., did the same in 2010. And an Air France flight had to make an emergency landing in northern Canada last year after one of its engines exploded in midair.
Passengers describe mid-air scare when engine cover rips off plane
Passengers describe mid-air scare when engine cover rips off plane

Engine Cover Blows Off on United Airlines Flight

Haley Ebert, who was in a window seat above the right wing, said she had raised her window shade after hearing a “huge bang” that she likened to a gunshot.

Why you shouldn’t freak out if your plane loses an engine

“Everyone on our side flung open their windows just to see what it was,” Ms. Ebert said in a phone interview. “The casing to the engine had sort of flown off. There were pieces flying into the ocean, nuts and bolts flying out a little bit. A bolt hit the wing, and it just made this huge bam.”

“Everyone on our side flung open their windows just to see what it was,” Ms. Ebert said in a phone interview. “The casing to the engine had sort of flown off. There were pieces flying into the ocean, nuts and bolts flying out a little bit. A bolt hit the wing, and it just made this huge bam.”

#ua1175 so glad we are all safe after our emergency landing. pic.twitter.com/bltAPWzYhn

Engine Cover Blows Off on United Airlines Flight
Engine Cover Blows Off on United Airlines Flight

Michael Nielson, seated in the middle section of the twin-engine Boeing 777, said flight attendants told passengers to return to their seats immediately and fasten their seatbelts. “The plane shook violently for the better part of five minutes,” he said in an email. Later, “the shaking subsided to constant, heavy vibration that stuck around for the rest of the flight.”

Even on twin-engined airliners, an engine failure is not a huge problem. When an aircraft is flying without one of its engines, it tends to fly at a lower altitude and work the remaining engine(s) harder. This makes the plane less fuel-efficient and reduces range. However, the vast majority of twin-engine long-haul airliners can perform this maneuver with no significant reduction in capabilities. Before a twin-engine airliner is allowed to fly long-distance routes over large bodies of water or through uninhabited regions like the Arctic, it must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for ETOPS or Extended range Twin Operations. When an aircraft is certified, part of the assessment is based on the plane’s performance when flying on a single engine. For example, the Boeing Dreamliner is certified for ETOPS-330. This means that the aircraft can fly routes that take it as far as 330 minutes (five and a half hours) of single-engine flying time from the nearest viable airport. Other twin-engine airliners, like the Boeing 777, are also certified for ETOPS 330. The Boeing 767 is certified for as much as 180 minutes of ETOPS. Airbus’ popular A330 and new A350 have been certified for ETOPS flying beyond 180 minutes, while the new A350 has been certified for ETOPS of up to 370 minutes. 
Why you shouldn't freak out if your plane loses an engine
Why you shouldn’t freak out if your plane loses an engine

Ms. Ebert said the shaking was more intense than she had ever experienced, even on turbulent flights. “Back and forth, down one side and down to the other side,” she said. “The whole thing felt like it was a roller coaster going to go off the tracks.”

Long-distance and transoceanic flights have traditionally been flown by three- or four-engine wide-body airliners. This is because when it comes to the engine count on an airliner, aviation thinking dictates that there is safety in numbers. But as modern turbofan engines have become more reliable, engine failures have become far less common. As a result, most airlines have turned to twin-engined mini-jumbos that are more fuel-efficient. These days, the three-engine airliner has gone the way of the dinosaur, and the four-engine jumbo jets that once dominated the skies are well on their way toward extinction. But engine failures do still happen. As terrifying as they may be for many of the passengers, though, losing an engine on an A380 means there are three more perfectly capable of safe flight. 

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United Airlines Passengers Captured Wild Moment Plane Engine Started to Fall Apart

United said in an emailed statement that the plane, traveling from San Francisco to Honolulu, had made an emergency landing after the engine cowling, or covering, came off. “Our pilots followed all necessary protocols to safely land the aircraft,” it said. “The aircraft taxied to the gate and passengers deplaned normally.”

Instances of an airliner losing an engine are obviously not unheard-of. It can and does happen. Most of the time, the pilot diverts and no one is injured. Even in the most catastrophic failures, the casing around the engine is designed to contain the damage caused by the failed engine. In other words, a contained engine failure.

As the plane neared the runway, the flight attendants told passengers to brace for impact, hands against the seat in front of them. Some people began sobbing, Mr. Nielson said.

Last October, Air France Flight 66 suffered one of these uncontained engine failures on a flight from Paris to Los Angeles. One of the Airbus A380’s four engines malfunctioned causing the fan blade and the entire front of the unit to sheer off mid-flight. Fortunately, the plane was able to land safely in Canada. 

Passengers Brace For Emergency Landing After Engine Cover Comes Off United Plane

Around 12:40 p.m. local time, the plane touched down — surprisingly smoothly, Ms. Ebert said, and to a round of applause from passengers who had been screaming a few minutes before. Several went on to tweet photos and videos of the damage.

“Everyone on our side flung open their windows just to see what it was. The casing to the engine had sort of flown off. There were pieces flying into the ocean, nuts and bolts flying out a little bit. A bolt hit the wing, and it just made this huge bam,” Haley Ebert, a passenger on the flight, said in a phone interview to NY Times.

United Airlines passengers rattled after plane’s engine shell falls off

I don’t see anything about this in the manual ✈️#ua1175 pic.twitter.com/yTECg9fxZw

United flight 1175 from San Francisco to Honolulu made an emergency landing on Tuesday afternoon after a “mechanical issue” caused the plane’s engine cover to come off, the airline said in a statement.

Similar malfunctions have happened before. In 2016, an American Airlines flight from Phoenix to San Francisco turned back after part of the engine cowling fell off. A JetBlue flight from Newark to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., did the same in 2010. And an Air France flight had to make an emergency landing in northern Canada last year after one of its engines exploded in midair.

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Passengers on board a flight from San Francisco to Honolulu got quite a scare Tuesday when an engine covering apparently came off mid-flight.

“Our pilots followed all necessary protocols to safely land the aircraft,” the airlines added.

"My husband and I were just praying because we had never gone through this experience," said passenger Delia Sudiacal. "I really thought we were going to die."

“Scariest flight of my life,” one passenger, Maria Falaschi, wrote on Twitter. She added that the flight UA1175 crew “did a great job” in guiding passengers through the “scary” situation. “They handled it well,” she said.

United Airlines flight 1175 was met with fire trucks when it made an emergency landing at Honolulu’s airport about 1:02 p.m.

The plane was able to land safely and there were no reports of injuries. 

But passengers said there were some tense moments after the engine problem, which happened about 40 minutes before the plane was due to land.

He later shared a photo showing an emergency manual being held up in front of a passenger window showing the damaged motor, adding: “I don’t see anything about this in the manual.”

"There was a loud bang … and then the plane really started shaking," said passenger Allison Sudiacal. "It was like rattling and the plane was kind of shaking like boom, boom, boom."

 The good news: Sudiacal said despite the scary moments mid-air, the plane landed fairly smoothly.

Scary landing after United flight loses engine cover over Pacific Ocean

"They kept us informed," said Sudiacal, who was traveling with her husband, 4-month-old son and parents-in-law.

Flying is hard; everyone has an air travel horror story. Whether you’re forcibly dragged off the flight under strange circumstances or forced to return to your point of origin because someone didn’t have a ticket or literally have to flush your hamster down the toilet just to board, sometimes you just have to make do with the bare minimum, like getting from point A to point B in one piece.

United Boeing loses engine cover on flight as horrified passengers watch

"They let us know that we had to brace for impact in case there was a rough landing. It was scary. But they did a really good job."

“Everyone on our side flung open their windows just to see what it was,” Haley Ebert, a passenger seated in a window seat, told the New York Times. “The casing to the engine had sort of flown off. There were pieces flying into the ocean, nuts and bolts flying out a little bit. A bolt hit the wing, and it just made this huge bam.”

Sudiacal’s husband, Tim, called the flight "absolutely terrifying."

Well, hopefully you’re in one piece along with the metal aircraft that your life depends on while you’re in the air. Even that small expectation was smashed, though, when passengers on a United Airlines flight from California to Hawaii watched as their airplane disintegrated in the sky.

United Airlines passenger jet’s engine cover rips apart over Pacific Ocean

He said he couldn’t see the problem engine — engine no. 2 — from where he was sitting.

Video posted online also showed the moments before the landing: Passengers chanted "Brace! Brace! Brace" as they neared the runway, then cheered when the plane landed without incident. 

United Airlines plane in emergency landing after engine cover rips off in mid-air over Pacific

It wasn’t immediately clear what went wrong, but photos appear to show the plane with a missing engine cowling, or covering.

In a statement, United Airlines said its pilots "followed all necessary protocols to safely land the aircraft," which had 363 passengers and 10 crew members on board. 

‘Scariest flight of my life’: Passengers speak of mid-air drama after plane’s engine cover blows off

The airline also said it is cooperating with NTSB and FAA investigations of the incident.

Audio of the pilot’s discussions with air traffic control in Honolulu illustrate the tense moments just before landing.

United Airlines Makes Emergency Landing As Engine Cover Rips Apart Mid-flight

Pilot: "If you haven’t already, roll the fire trucks."Air traffic control: "They will be standing by."

In a statement, the state Transportation Department said the United flight landed safely with Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting personnel standing by as a precaution. The plane has been taken to a hangar, the department said, and the incident didn’t spur any delays at the airport.

On Wednesday morning, “Uncle Al” turned 98 years old, and the public was invited to help him celebrate.  

On Wednesday morning, “Uncle Al” turned 98 years old, and the public was invited to help him celebrate.  


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