An engine on an Atlanta-bound Spirit Airlines jet, where passengers said they heard an explosion and saw flames, sustained an especially serious type of failure, a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) official said Wednesday.
The official said it was an “uncontained” engine failure, meaning broken pieces and parts of the engine escaped the outer engine housing. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Federal Aviation Administration is also investigating, said Laura Brown, an agency spokeswoman.
Spirit Flight 165, an Airbus A319 carrying 150 people, had mechanical difficulties and smoke filled the cabin shortly after takeoff Tuesday from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Misty Pinson, a spokeswoman for the Miramar, Fla.-based airline, confirmed by email. The jet returned and landed safely at the Dallas airport.
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The V2500 engines on Spirit’s fleet are supplied by International Aero Engines, a consortium led by Pratt & Whitney.
Boeing doesn’t use that engine-maker. Its 737s are powered exclusively by CFM engines.
Passenger Fred Edwards told WGCL-TV in Atlanta that he heard an explosion before flames came up the side of the plane, lighting up the interior of the Airbus A319. He and other passengers reported that smoke then filled the cabin.
Pinson, the Spirit spokeswoman, said no injuries were reported. She said the captain received an indication of a “possible mechanical issue” shortly after takeoff but she added that there was no fire. She later said that Spirit is “actively investigating to confirm the specifics of what happened and the cause.”
The passengers were placed on another Spirit jet for Atlanta later Tuesday.
Aircraft engines are designed to contain any broken pieces within the engine during a failure. That’s because when parts are released, they often spray like shrapnel and cause severe damage to fuel lines, electrical cables, hydraulic lines and other critical aircraft systems. Airliners are capable of safely flying with only one engine if the other engine breaks down or has to be shut off, but damage from an uncontained engine failure can jeopardize the plane.
Despite the government shutdown, NTSB is recalling furloughed investigators to open an investigation of the incident, the agency official said.
Mary Anne Greczyn, an Airbus spokeswoman in Herndon, Va., said she didn’t have any details about the incident and referred questions to Spirit.
Information about the engine manufacturers was reported by Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates.