A Philippine Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing after one of the engines on the Boeing 777 caught fire shortly after takeoff from Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday.
Witnesses on the ground reported seeing flames coming from one of the plane’s engines.
Andrew Ames was headed west on the 105 freeway near the airport when he spotted the plane in the sky.
“From where I was, I could see the back of the plane and it looked like it was backfiring,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘I’ve never seen backfire on a plane.’ It was just flame, flame, flame.”
Ames watched as the plane turned left very quickly back in the direction of the airport.
The plane took off from LAX at around 11:45 am but was quickly forced to turn around. Airline officials characterized the issue as a “technical problem” with one of the engines. The plane was back on the ground by noon.
“All 342 passengers and 18 crew members are safe and were able to disembark from the airplane using regular airstairs,” the airline said in a statement posted on its website. “We greatly appreciate the calmness and patience of our PR113 passengers, who cooperated well with our cabin crew during the flight and the emergency landing.”
It was not clear what caused the incident. Reuters reported that GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric, which manufactures the engines for the 777 aircraft, is working with the airline to determine the cause of the failure.
In September, another Boeing 777 plane operated by Air China was forced to return to Dulles International Airport after reporting an engine fire. No injuries were reported in the incident.
FAA officials said they are looking into Thursday’s incident but that it’s too early to determine whether the two incidents are related.
“While both involved Boeing planes, it doesn’t automatically mean the underlying causes of the reported problem were identical,” spokesman Lynn Lunsford said. “The FAA closely monitors engine performance and reliability and takes steps to address anything that might point to a trend in the larger fleet.”
The airline credited the “calm professionalism” of its flight and cabin crews in executing the unscheduled landing.
“We affirm that safety is our top priority and that Philippine Airlines is fully cooperating with the concerned airport and aviation authorities,” the statement continued.
The passengers were given meals and hotel accommodations until they could be rebooked on new flights.
Boeing has been under intense scrutiny in the wake of two crashes of its 737 Max jet, which killed 346 people. The planes have been grounded for more than eight months as the company works to develop a fix for an automated system that has been implicated in the two crashes.
The National Transportation Safety Board last week called for the redesign of a key component of another version of the jet, the 737 NG after the aircraft was involved in a fatal incident last year involving an engine failure.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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