American Airlines Engine Failure: Seriously Scary

Ever since US Airways Flight 1549 glided into the Hudson and Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 crashed into a field outside Amsterdam, we’ve been treated to hair-trigger media reports about all sorts of incidents involving commercial aircraft, from minor mechanical problems to suspected bird strikes.

But the uncontained engine failure on American Airlines Flight 309 on Wednesday was not just another case of a nervous press jumping on a routine event. It could have ended very badly. [Note: FAA now classifying this as a “contained engine failure” because all the parts exited out the back of the engine, not through the engine cowling. Thanks, Robert.]

It didn’t. The MD-88  landed safely at JFK after one engine came apart shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia, dropping shrapnel onto a Queens building and parking lot. Shards of the engine were lodged in a plumbing company’s roof “like shark teeth,” The New York Times reports.

Such uncontained engine failures are relatively rare, but can be extremely dangerous. Usually the greatest danger is not to people on the ground, but to those on the aircraft if the engine shrapnel pierces the fuselage.  

The Wall Street Journal reports, meanwhile, that pilots had reported problems with that engine, and that repairs had been delayed.


3 thoughts on “American Airlines Engine Failure: Seriously Scary

  1. Robert

    this was not uncontained engine failure – all the failed parts exited through the back of the engine not the side cowling ..

  2. Jeanne Leblanc

    You know, there seemed to be some disagreement about this at first. Several sources originally reported that the FAA called it an uncontained engine failure, although I notice that Newsday quoted the FAA as calling it contained. Today that seems to be corrected for the reason Robert states.


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