• Reuters

Atlas Air Boeing 747 Cargo Plane Makes Emergency Landing after Engine Fire

REUTERS/David Ryder/File Photo
John W. Dietrich, president and CEO of Atlas Air Worldwide, and Dave Calhoun, CEO of Boeing, converse on stage during the delivery of the final 747 jet at their plant in Everett, Washington, U.S. January 31, 2023.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An Atlas Air Boeing 747-8 BA.N cargo plane made an emergency landing in Miami late Thursday shortly after departure after suffering an engine fire.

The plane with five crew members safely returned and no injuries were reported.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating. The FAA said a post-flight inspection showed a softball-size hole above the engine, while the NTSB said it “has opened an investigation and is collecting information to evaluate and determine scope of the investigation.”

Unverified videos on social media platform X showed flames shooting out of the left wing of the aircraft while in flight.

“The crew followed all standard procedures and safely returned to (Miami International),” the air freight company said, adding that it would conduct an inspection to find the cause.

U.S. air safety expert John Cox said having problems with one engine is generally not a significant event, but the incident sounded like an uncontained engine failure due to the hole and NTSB investigation.

“On the interior of that engine there are a lot of rotating parts including blades,” Cox said. “An engine is designed to try and contain a blade separation and they do testing and certification for it. But it does happen that you get an uncontained failure. When you do, it does elevate the investigative significance of it.”

Cox said incidents of uncontained engine failures, like a 2018 Southwest Airlines flight where a passenger was partially sucked out the window are coming under increased scrutiny.

Investigators will be looking at questions like the age of the engine and its maintenance record.

Boeing said it is supporting Atlas and “the NTSB investigation into this incident.”

The Atlas Boeing 747-8 is eight years old, according to the FAA and is powered by four General Electric GE.N GEnx engines.

GE Aerospace said it is providing technical assistance to the FAA and the NTSB.

The engine failure comes against the backdrop of two high-profile jetliner accidents this year.

An Airbus AIR.PA A350 passenger plane operated by Japan Airlines collided with a Coast Guard aircraft in Tokyo, killing five crew members on Jan. 2.

A few days later, a Boeing 737 MAX 9 jet made an emergency landing following a cabin panel blowout, which prompted the FAA to temporarily ground 171 jets for safety checks.

SNAG OCCURRED ON THE CLIMB

The Atlas Air Flight was headed for San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Miami International Airport late on Thursday.

The pilot made an emergency call to report an engine fire and requested to return to the airport, according to multi-channel recordings of conversations between air traffic control and the plane available on liveatc.net.

“We have a engine fire,” one of the plane crew said, adding the fire occurred “on the climb out” of the airport.

Atlas Air, customers of which include parcel delivery giants DHL and FedEx, went private last year when it was bought by a group led by private equity Apollo Global Management APO.N.

A freighter version of the last commercial Boeing jumbo was delivered to Atlas Air last year.