While aircraft engine failures happen all the time (I’ve experienced a couple over the years), a United Airlines 777 suffered a major engine failure today that is sure to make national headlines, and will terrify just about anyone.
UA328 was scheduled to operate today from Denver to Honolulu. The plane had 241 people onboard, including 231 passengers and 10 crew members.
However, as the 777 climbed through 13,000 feet it suffered issues with its right engine. Below is a video of what passengers saw inside the cabin.
On the ground, people describe hearing a loud boom, and then seeing debris falling from the sky. Some significant chunks of the right engine even fell to the ground, near Broomfield, which is northwest of Denver.
In some cases the debris just barely missed houses…
…while in at least one case it went through the roof of a house, with one person saying they were just two feet away from the impact area, while making a sandwich.
Below is the ATC audio of the incident. This really gives you a sense of just how much the pilots were dealing with, and you can even hear (what sounds like) the master caution alarm going off in the background. “Mayday, mayday, United, uh, 28… United 328 heavy, mayday, mayday, aircraft, uh…”
As you can hear, the crew declared a “mayday,” which is reserved for life threatening emergencies. “Pan” is used for situations where help is needed, but there’s no immediate risk. Given the severity of this situation, it’s no surprise that the crew went with mayday.
The plane ended up spending just under 25 minutes in the air, before safely landing back in Denver (though not quite in one piece).
Below is video footage from inside the plane as it touches down in Denver, where you can hear passengers cheering.
The plane involved in the incident had the registration code N772UA. This was only the fifth Boeing 777 ever produced. The plane joined United’s fleet 26 years ago, as the ninth 777 in the carrier’s fleet (it only joined a bit later because it was being used as a test frame for Boeing). That shouldn’t in any way impact the safety of the plane assuming it’s well maintained, but I always like to note the history of planes nonetheless.
At this point it’s too early to know what caused this, though the NTSB has already opened an investigation into the incident, so we should learn more eventually.
What a terrifying incident. Huge kudos to the pilots for getting this plane safely back onto the ground with no one being injured (both in the air and on the ground). Also, what an amazing testament to how well planes are built, as the plane performed exactly as it was supposed to when things went wrong.
It seems like this could have ended very differently, especially when you see engine parts landing in neighborhoods.