Terrified United Airlines passengers clapped in relief as their flight touched down safely in Denver on Saturday after suffering catastrophic engine failure shortly after take-off.
The Boeing 777-200 aircraft, with 231 passengers and 10 crew on board, was heading to Honolulu on Saturday from Denver International Airport when debris struck the plane’s right engine, causing it to erupt into flames.
The captain had been giving an announcement over the intercom when a large explosion rocked the cabin, accompanied by a bright flash.
Passengers have recalled their horror as they looked out the window to see engine casing and chunks of fiberglass falling from the plane, and thick black smoke emanated from the wing.
The incident forced the pilot to attempt an emergency landing back in Denver just 20 minutes after take-off, at around 1:30pm local time.
Video recorded aboard Flight UA328 captured the moment it touched back down on the runway safely, prompting the cabin to erupt into applause and cheers of relief.
Remarkably, there were no injuries reported either on board the flight or on the ground.
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Terrified United Airlines passengers clapped in relief as their flight touched down safely in Denver on Saturday after suffering catastrophic engine failure
Video recorded by passengers aboard Flight UA328, which was carrying 231 travelers and 10 crew members, shows the engine on fire
Pictures taken from ground showed the jet’s engine on fire and trailing smoke
Aviation safety experts said the plane, a 26-year-old 777, appeared to have suffered an uncontained and catastrophic engine failure.
Such an event is extremely rare and happens when huge spinning discs inside the engine suffer some sort of failure and breach the armored casing around the engine that is designed to contain the damage, said John Cox, an aviation safety expert and retired airline pilot who runs an aviation safety consulting firm called Safety Operating Systems.
Boeing has not yet returned a DailyMail.com request for comment.
Prior to landing safely, large chunks of debris had fallen from the plane on the Denver suburbs below, narrowly missing homes and other buildings.
Passenger David Delucia recalled for the Denver Post how he grabbed his wife’s hand after hearing the explosion, telling her ‘We’re done for’.
‘The plane started shaking violently, and we lost altitude and we started going down,’ Delucia, who was sat directly across the aisle from the side with the failed engine. ‘When it initially happened, I thought we were done. I thought we were going down.
‘I honestly say I thought we were going to die at one point,’ he said, adding that he and his wife took their wallets containing their driver’s licences and put them in their pockets so that ‘in case we did go down, we could be ID’d.’
In an audio recording, a United pilot could be heard making a mayday call to air traffic control.
‘Mayday, aircraft just experienced engine failure, need to turn immediately,’ the pilot said, according to audio from the monitoring website liveatc.net that was reviewed by Reuters.
Flames could be seen coming from the engine of the plane after it exploded at 15,000ft. Miraculously, nobody was injured
The Broomfield Police Department posted photos on Twitter showing large, circular pieces of debris leaning against a house in the suburb about 25 miles north of Denver
Denver resident Kirby Klements was inside his home with his wife when they heard a huge booming sound, he said. A few seconds later, the couple saw a massive piece of debris fly past their window and into the bed of Klements’ truck, crushing the cab and pushing the vehicle into the dirt.
He estimated the circular engine cowling at 15 feet in diameter. Fine pieces of the fibreglass insulation used in the airplane engine fell from the sky ‘like ash’ for about 10 minutes, he said, and several large chunks of insulation landed in his backyard.
‘If it had been 10 feet different, it would have landed right on top of the house,’ he said in a phone interview with AP. ‘And if anyone had been in the truck, they would have been dead.’
The Broomfield Police Department posted photos on Twitter showing large, circular pieces of debris leaning against a house in the suburb about 25 miles north of Denver.
Additional debris was found scattered across turf field at Commons Park as well as the Northmoor and Red Leaf sections of Broomfield.
The department has urged locals not to move any debris they might find, saying the want ‘all debris to remain in place for investigation’.
Broomfield is a suburb about 25 miles north of Denver. Tyler Thal, who lives in the area, said he was out for a walk with his family when he noticed a large commercial plane flying unusually low and took his phone out to film it.
‘While I was looking at it, I saw an explosion and then the cloud of smoke and some debris falling from it,’ he said.
‘It was just like a speck in the sky and as I’m watching that, I’m telling my family what I just saw and then we heard the explosion. The plane just kind of continued on and we didn’t see it after that.’
Cops in Broomfield responded to reports of objects falling from the sky on Saturday afternoon and saw huge metal objects in front lawns
This image provided by KCNC-TV in Denver shows the damage done when debris fell through the roof and into the kitchen of a home in Broomfield, Colorado on Saturday. Fortunately, nobody was injured
Pieces of the aircraft landed on a football field as seen in the above image posted to Twitter by a local resident in Broomfield
Police in Broomfield released this photo showing debris from the United Airlines aircraft strewn across a football field
One local resident, Kieran Cain, told CNN he was with his children at a nearby elementary school when the aircraft flew over. Seconds later, they heard a loud explosion.
‘We saw it go over, we heard the big explosion, we looked up, there was black smoke in the sky,’ Cain told CNN.
‘Debris started raining down, which you know, sort of looked like it was floating down and not very heavy, but actually now looking at it, It’s giant metal pieces all over the place.
‘I was surprised that the plane sort of continued on uninterrupted, without really altering its trajectory or doing anything,’ he said.
‘It just kind of kept going the way it was going as if nothing happened.’
One man who said he was a passenger on the flight tweeted: ‘I’m on #UA328, pilots did an amazing job because it was loud, shaking, and scary as hell back here. Fire crews have us out on the tarmac.’
Another passenger, Travis Loock, told CNN that he heard a boom about 20 minutes into the flight.
‘There was a big boom and the kind of sound you don’t want to hear when you’re on the airplane,’ said Loock, who was flying with his wife.
‘And I instantly put my shade up, and I was pretty frightened to see… the engine on my side was missing.’
‘We were just glad we weren’t over the ocean, because that’s where we were heading,’ he said.
Loock told CNN that while fear was palpable on board, everyone was ‘very calm’ when the explosion took place.
‘A lot of people couldn’t see the engine on that side, right, so I was a little more freaked out because I could see it, and I knew that was not right,’ he said.
The image above shows smoke emanating from the damaged engine on the left
Aviation safety experts said the plane appeared to have suffered an uncontained and catastrophic engine failure – an extremely rare occurrence.
Pilots practice how to deal with such an event frequently and would have immediately shut off anything flammable in the engine, including fuel and hydraulic fluid, using a single switch.
In a statement to DailyMai.com, United said: ‘Flight 328 from Denver to Honolulu experienced an engine failure shortly after departure, returned safely to Denver and was met by emergency crews as a precaution.
‘We ensured our customers were comfortable and cared for at Denver International Airport while we prepared another aircraft to get them to Honolulu.
‘Those who did not wish to travel with us were provided hotel accommodations.
‘We will continue to work with federal agencies investigating this incident.’
The airline declined to identify the pilot when pressed by DailyMail.com.
Boeing, meanwhile, said its technical advisers would assist the NTSB with its investigation.
Former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall called the incident another example of ‘cracks in our culture in aviation safety (that) need to be addressed.’
Hall, who was on the board from 1994 to 2001, has criticized the FAA over the past decade as ‘drifting toward letting the manufacturers provide the aviation oversight that the public was paying for.’
That goes especially for Boeing, he said.
The last fatality on a US airline flight involved such an engine failure on a Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Dallas in April 2018.
A passenger was killed when the engine disintegrated more than 30,000 feet above Pennsylvania and debris struck the plane, breaking the window next to her seat. She was forced halfway out the window before other passengers pulled her back inside.
In that case, the breakdown was blamed on a broken fan blade in an engine of the Boeing 737.
TROUBLED HISTORY OF THE ‘TRIPLE SEVEN’: A TIMELINE OF BOEING 777’S WORST ACCIDENTS
Since the American-made Boeing 777 wide-body jet airliner made its maiden flight in June 1994, it has been involved in 29 aviation incidents and accidents that have claimed the lives of 541 people.
Of these, three were hijackings while eight involved hull losses – or ‘total loss’ of the aircraft.
Five of the hull losses were in-flight while three were on-ground incidents.
British Airways Flight 38 – January 17, 2008
Crash investigators inspect wreckage and debris from grounded British Airways Flight 38 at Heathrow Airport on January 18, 2008
A British Airways plane crash-landed at Heathrow Airport, slightly injuring 47 passengers and triggering an inquiry into why the Boeing 777 flying in from Beijing landed short of the runway.
Fire engines smothered the aircraft in foam after the landing at the world’s busiest international airport extensively damaged its wings and ripped off its undercarriage.
Aviation commentators said the fact that the plane only just cleared the perimeter fence, hit the ground well short of the runway and then slid to a halt pointed to a massive loss of power in the final stages of landing.
The wheels of the plane, which had a routine maintenance check just a month prior, were still in the field where it crashed, several hundred yards from the runway.
There were no fatalities.
EgyptAir Flight 667 – July 29, 2011
The image above shows damage on the nose section of EgyptAir Flight 667 in Cairo after a fire tore through the cockpit before it was set to depart for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in July 2011
An EgyptAir Boeing 777-200 was evacuated at Cairo International Airport after a fire started in the cockpit while preparing to depart.
All 307 passengers survived but the fire, thought to have been started by an electrical fault, damaged the plane beyond repair.
Seven people were treated for smoke inhalation. The flight was destined to land in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Asiana Airlines Flight 214 – July 6, 2013
The wreckage of Asiana Flight 214 lies on the ground after it crashed at the San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco in this July 6, 2013 aerial photo
Two teenage girls were killed and more than 180 people were injured when a flight operated by South Korean carrier Asiana Airlines crashed while landing at San Francisco airport.
Two passengers who were not wearing seatbelts were ejected from the aircraft during the crash and were killed.
The Boeing 777, which was carrying 291 passengers and 16 crew, was flown from Seoul to San Francisco.
An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board faulted the pilots and crew for relying too much on automated systems and for incorrectly flying the plane during landing.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 – March 8, 2014
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 became one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries when it vanished on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.
The Boeing 777-200ER went missing with 239 people on board. Malaysia, China, and Australia called off a two-year $130million underwater search in the southern Indian Ocean in January 2017 after finding no trace of the aircraft.
A second three-month search, led by Ocean Infinity, ended similarly in May the following year.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 – July 17, 2014
Recovery workers in rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine load debris from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in November 2014 – four months after the plane was shot down
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014 when it was shot down by a missile fired from territory held by pro-Moscow rebels amid fighting in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 aboard. Russia has denied any involvement.
A Dutch-led international Joint Investigation (JIT) team spent years collecting evidence before issuing arrest warrants in 2019 for the four suspects: Russians Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Igor Girkin, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko.
A hearing on the merits of the trial is scheduled to start this month.
British Airways Flight 2276 – September 8, 2015
The image above from September 2015 shows a British Airways Boeing 777 airliner burst into flames on the runway at Las Vegas McCarran Airport
A British Airways jetliner engine caught fire in Las Vegas as the plane was about to take off for London, forcing all 172 passengers and crew to escape down emergency slides as smoke and flames engulfed the aircraft.
Several passengers needed hospital treatment for minor injuries after the Boeing 777’s aborted takeoff, with one of those present saying smoke caused people to rush to the front of the plane, sparking scenes of panic.
Singapore Airlines Flight 368 – June 26, 2016
A Singapore Airlines Ltd (SIA) flight to Milan caught fire after returning to Singapore’s Changi airport following an engine oil warning message, but all passengers were safe.
The aircraft’s right engine caught fire after the aircraft, a Boeing 777-300ER, touched down at Changi airport at around 6:50am on June 26, 2016. Emergency services put out the fire and there were no injuries to the 222 passengers and 19 crew on board.
The SIA flight, SQ368, departed at 2:05am, but about two hours into the flight the pilot announced there was an engine problem and the flight would return to Singapore.
Emirates Flight 521 – August 3, 2016
The image above shows Emirates Flight 521 after it crashed while attempting to abort a landing in Dubai after flying in from India in August 2016
An Emirates passenger jet crashed while attempting to abort a landing in Dubai
All 300 passengers and crew were safely evacuated but a firefighter died tackling flames after the Boeing 777-300, arriving from India, caught fire after skidding along the Dubai airport runway on its fuselage.
It was the first major accident in Emirates’ more-than-30-year history.
All 300 passengers and crew safely evacuated the jet but a firefighter died tackling flames after the Boeing 777-300, arriving from India, caught fire after skidding along the Dubai airport runway on its fuselage.
Investigators said the pilot failed to notice that the Boeing 777’s engine thrust settings remained too low and cut short a procedure.
Ethiopian Airlines cargo plane on the ground in Shanghai – July 22, 2020
Terrifying footage has captured the moment a Boeing 777 engulfed by a huge blaze and smoke at an airport in China. The Ethiopian Airlines cargo plane caught fire at around 4pm on July 22, 2020
A Boeing 777 plane burst into flames today in front of shocked passengers while being parked in one of the busiest airports in China.
The cargo plane belonging to Ethiopian Airlines caught fire at around 4pm local time on the tarmac of Shanghai Pudong International Airport, according to authorities.
The fire was put off about an hour later, said the local authorities. No injuries or deaths were reported.
Shocking footage shows smoke and flames engulfing the Boeing 777 while several emergency vehicles were rushing towards the burning aircraft.