Plane makes emergency landing after engine rips apart in midair

A SOUTHWEST Airlines plane bound for Orlando, Florida, was forced to make an emergency after part of an engine appeared to be ripped off.

Flight 3472 from New Orleans was diverted to Pensacola, Florida, after the pilot detected a major problem with one of the jet’s two engines, according to a statement from the US airline.

The Boeing 737-700 landed in Pensacola around 9.40am Central Daylight Time with no apparent injuries to the 99 passengers or five crew members on board, Southwest reported.

Comments and photos posting online suggested part of the engine had blown apart, although Southwest denied it.

Twitter user Lexy shared some photos taken by her father’s boss Charlie, saying he was “pretty shaken up.”

A passenger named Stephanie shared photos of people inside the plane wearing oxygen masks and an image of the jet with “chunks missing from back wing and on top fin.”

She described the incident as a “horrible experience” and like something out of a movie, adding that it had been her first time flying.

“I texted my children because it wasn’t looking good,” she added.

The Wall Street Journal’s aerospace reporter Jon Ostrower tweeted that the damage to the engine was “extraordinary” and that the fuselage and wing root were damaged too.

One passenger told the newspaper: “There was the loud explosion but after that it was very controlled. Scary, but in control. Everyone cheered for the pilot when we landed safely.”

Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz said there was no explosion. He said the airline will work with investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the cause.

It is the latest in a string of incidents for the airline, including a botched landing at New York’s La Guardia Airport in 2013, and problems involving cabin depressurisation in 2009 and 2011.

It’s rare for Southwest or any other major airline to have such serious engine trouble, according to Michael Boyd, president of airline consulting firm Boyd International.

“It’s a one-off, almost unheard of,” he said on Saturday. “Southwest has an outstanding safety record because it spends a lot of money on maintenance.”

After making the emergency landing, the plane was taken out of service. Southwest said it was trying to find alternative way to get the passengers aboard the flight to their destinations.

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