United Flight Makes Emergency Landing After Its Engine Reportedly Caught Fire

Jul 13, 2018

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A United Airlines flight heading to Sydney, Australia (SYD) from San Francisco (SFO) made an emergency landing when one of its engines caught fire shortly after takeoff.

Passengers on board UA Flight 863 reported hearing two loud noises and seeing two large sparks about 30 minutes after the Boeing 787-9 took off from SFO. The flight returned to SFO, where the pilots executed a safe emergency landing. There were no injuries reported.

One passenger on board, Aman Hauja, told ABC 7 News that the cabin crew told passengers that there had been a fire in one of the aircraft engines.

“The engines were working reasonably well after that announcement, but to be safe and such a long journey, they decided it’s better, safer to return back,” Hauja said. “The pilot and the staff were very reassuring that things are in control and in no danger, working fine.”

Although the exact cause of the engine issue isn’t clear, we’re guessing it was a compressor stall in the engine. This occurs when there’s an airflow disruption into the engine compressor. Air flow can be interrupted by a foreign object, like a bird, broken compressor or turbine blades, engine deterioration, extreme pitch or yaw movements or throttle movements, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

TPG‘s Emily McNutt experienced a compressor stall on a Japan Airlines flight last year. From her window seat, she said “flames were streaming in front of my face,” when the surge occurred. “Every two to three seconds, the engine on my side would spew out flames, accompanied by a sound that echoed like a loud blast and a jolting motion,” she wrote.

In the image below from Japanese television, you can see the engine catching fire:

United said it was working to re-accommodate its customers. “The flight landed safely and we will work to get our customers to Sydney as soon as possible,” United told ABC 7 News. “Our maintenance team is inspecting the aircraft.”

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