For an update on this event from the NTSB click here.
Uncontained engine failures are relatively rare. Rarer still is the failure that leads to a hull loss. But American Airlines Flight 383, a Boeing 767 routed from Chicago to Miami was on its takeoff roll on Friday afternoon when passengers reported a loud explosion quickly followed by black smoke and fire just outside the right side of the aircraft.
“People are yelling, ‘Open the door! Open the door!’ Everyone’s screaming and jumping on top of each other to open the door,” Sarah Ahmed told Chicago’s ABC television station, WLS.
Ahmed said she could smell smoke right away and saw the fire “melting the windows.” Dramatic stuff. Here’s the photo that makes her point.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s Lorenda Ward said the failure was in the engine’s second stage disk and Aviation Week reported that was a first-ever, though first stage engine failures have occurred a number of times including on another American Airlines 767 in 2006.
What seems to have caused the phenomenal fire damage on Flight 383 was debris penetrating the fuel tank, providing a source of fuel to the fire. The engine spewed debris with such velocity, material was found a half a mile away according to Ward.
Eight years ago, GE was bragging about American Airlines setting a time-on-wing record with the CF6-80C2 when it logged more than 40,000 flight hours. The company calls the engine “the most utilized and reliable” powering more than 10 wide-body aircraft. Whether the age of the engine played a role in the event on Friday will be part of the NTSB’s investigation.
One hundred and seventy people were on the airplane and all evacuated with 20 people injured in the evacuation but no one was hurt from fire or smoke, doubtless because the plane was still on the ground.
An inflight event with this kind of damage might not have had such a happy landing. More photos of the plane, and video from the evacuation below.
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