United Airlines Emergency Landing


A United Airlines flight bound for Chicago was forced to make an emergency landing in New Mexico earlier this week after a passenger’s video captured flames shooting out one of the engines. The engine issues forced the plane with 158 people on board to make an unscheduled landing in Albuquerque early Monday morning.

Flight 366 was heading from San Diego to Chicago, but at some point during the flight, a passenger spotted what he thought were flames coming from the right engine of the Boeing 737-900. The name of the passenger was Thomas Chorny, who took video of the engine showed it to airline representatives after landing.

Chorny responded to the event on Twitter saying, “Strange to sit there & think ‘What if this is it?’ To just sit there & accept the potential fate that seems to be a possibility & not tell the sleeping people around you.” 

Once the flames were noticed by flight staff, the engine was shut down to idle and the flames went out. Then the flight started banking left and went down to a much lower altitude, indicating some kind of action had been taken in response. Reportedly about 10 minutes later flight crew announced the flight would be diverted to Albuquerque. 

Chorny stated he didn’t want anyone around him to panic if the event turned disastrous. Despite the intensity of the situation, the airline responded in an official statement that the diversion was made because of “a mechanical issue with one of the engines.”

According to the statement, the flight landed safely just after 1:30 a.m., and passengers got off the plane as normal. Another aircraft was brought in for the passengers to finish the flight to Chicago soon after. Maintenance workers in Albuquerque were scheduled to inspect the plane. United Airlines also said its mechanics believe the video showed sparks and not flames, coming from the engine. They still plan to inspect the engine itself to confirm the cause and nature of the incident.

This incident comes after a handful of other flights that have had to make emergency landings this year because of engine problems. In May, United Airlines jet had to return to Honolulu less than an hour into the flight after flames were seen coming from an engine on the left side of the plane. In July, part of an engine on a Delta MD-88 came loose, and passengers reported hearing a loud noise and seeing smoke. 

More recently in November, a Philippine Airlines flight returned to Los Angeles International Airport not long after taking off because fire was coming from an engine on the Boeing 777. In that case, the flames were spotted by multiple passengers as well as some people on the ground. Hopefully after this most recent United Airlines incident, mechanics and maintenance can discover the root to these issues and prevent them from happening in the future.



Chicago Tribune. “Chicago-Bound United Airlines Flight Makes Emergency Landing in Albuquerque after Apparent Engine Fire Caught on Video.” Chicagotribune.com, Chicago Tribune, 16 Dec. 2019, www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-chicago-united-airlines-flight-engine-fire-video-20191216-5rd27xnxwjgfphshjzkhcodire-story.html.

Mezzofiore, Gianluca, and Alta Spells. “A Passenger Records Video of Flames Coming from an Engine as a United Flight Makes an Emergency Landing.” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 Dec. 2019, edition.cnn.com/2019/12/16/us/united-plane-engine-flames-emergency-landing-trnd/index.html.