Plane Engine Burns Up on the Way from Denver to Hawaii

Boeing 777 United Airlines by Dr. Jaus is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Passengers onboard a recent United Airlines flight from Denver to Honolulu, Hawaii were getting ready to relax for a trip to some sun and sand when the worst thing imaginable happened.

Shortly after takeoff while still in the Denver area something went very, very wrong.

There was a massive burst of light and the very loud booming sound of something exploding as the 231 passengers began looking around in alarm. The Boeing 777-200 had a major problem in its right engine: it was on fire.

The plane rapidly lost altitude and the 10 staff did their best to keep people calm as they prepared for their lives to end any moment.

Denver area residents reacted in horror as chunks of the plane’s engine and components started raining down from the sky into their yards, including a 15-foot-long piece of engine casing smashing one family’s truck.

Black smoke could be seen in the sky as the plane attempted to do something to save people’s lives while its right engine literally burned up in the air.

N771UA Boeing 777 United by markyharky is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Pilot Pulls Off Heroic Landing

Passengers onboard thought they were going to die. Staff and passengers were horrified as they prepared to face the worst, but displaying amazing calm in the face of a life-threatening situation, the pilot managed to safely land the aircraft back at Denver International Airport without incident.

Nobody was injured or killed, although everyone on board was scared out of their minds.

Authorities say the exact cause of the fire is still being investigated and anybody who was injured by flying debris in the Denver area is also requested by police to speak with them. Fortunately at this point it appears that nobody was killed by the flying debris either, so other than property damage everyone got very lucky in that regard as well.

The occurrence of this kind of malfunction is very rare and if an aircraft engine does experience catastrophic failure it’s housed in a reinforced casing that’s designed to stop it from spreading. Nonetheless, the passengers were obviously in real danger, and it took mental and professional expertise to land the plane safely and not succumb to complete panic.

Is Flying Safe?

Although flying is much safer statistically than driving or other forms of travel, there are issues that are happening with aviation safety in the United States. Pilots learn how to deal with a situation like what happened on board this United Airlines flight, but according to former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall there are major “cracks” in American aviation safety that have to be fixed.

Instead of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) making sure everything is 100% safe, Hall says that it’s increasingly “drifting toward letting the manufacturers provide the aviation oversight that the public was paying for.”

This is not good, especially for large companies like Boeing, whose Supermax jets had defects that caused hundreds of deaths.

Engine failures are still extremely rare, however, and the last time it happened was in April of 2018 when a Boeing 737 flight from New York to Dallas had its engine combust due to a broken fan blade and fly off in chunks. One rapidly flying chunk smashed the window next to where a woman was sitting, crushing her sideways halfway out the window. Passengers physically responded with extreme bravery, pulling her back in, but she was dead. Everyone else onboard that flight survived.

Also in 2010 an Australian Qantas Airbus A380 started its flight path out of Singapore only to have the engine experience a massive and life-threatening error that led to shrapnel piercing the plane at sensitive areas, but pilots were still able to land safely.