FAA: Southwest Engine Experienced Vibration. Passengers: The Engine Exploded!

According to the FAA, Southwest flight 438 returned to Dallas’ Love Field on November 17 when the plane “experienced a vibration in the number 2 engine” shortly after take-off. According to passengers on the flight, the plane flew for thirty minutes before the right engine experienced “fatal engine failure.”

The discrepancy is raising a few eyebrows over at FlightStory. One passenger writes:

It was not during takeoff. There was alot of damage. There was no vibration. It doesnt say anything about an uncontained explosion at 25,000ft. I was sitting on that engine watching it happen with my own two eyes. The fan blades shot out towards the plane leaving holes on the engine cowlings and a huge hole on th other side.There was no vibration, but a huge explosion. That report is false and they should really clean it up! The blades could have easily penatrated the fusalage causing a crash, or went through and killed a passenger.

Another explains in harrowing detail:

We all thought we were going to die! We said our goodbyes. There was an explosion and holes in the right engine with something sharp still sticking out of the engine. The plane started shaking so bad. The flight attendant was crying and one was getting oxygen because she was hyperventilating. They were able to turn the flight around and land with no incident but not before the longest 20 minutes back to the ground and the plane being surrounded by firetrucks. A big chunk of the engine flew off and luckily it went away from the aircraft because if it came toward us, we wouldn’t be here. The chunk was on the outer side of the engine not seen from our view but could be seen while walking off the aircraft. There were smaller holes though in our view of the top of the engine. I saw the pilots taking photos when we made it to the ground so hopefully the FAA will do the right thing and investigate how this could happen.

Regardless of which account is accurate, it is still impressive that Southwest’s pilots managed to safely land their wounded plane. The NTSB has launched an investigation.

Follow-up – Southwest Engine Failure [FlightStory]