Delta 737 Engine Failure Rare

11:19 PM, Feb 21, 2011   |    comments
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A Delta plane's engine failed in mid-air over Florida, forcing the flight to make an emergency landing Sunday morning, authorities said. (USA Today)

ATLANTA -- The track record of engines like the one that failed on Sunday's Delta flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Minneapolis is actually better than most car engines.

Few and far between as failures might be, they aren't any less frightening to passengers.

Nearly 120 passengers and six crew members were on board Delta Flight 1846 Sunday morning when it experienced engine failure shortly after taking off.

"Probably about a minute after takeoff, we heard this loud popping," one passenegr said. "I thought it was the landing gear at first. The plane started shaking a little bit. Then we stopped climbing so I knew something was wrong."

"We were probably a couple thousand feet up and all of a sudden there was a terrible shuddering," another passenger said. "And everybody just, you know, got rigid. And nobody said anything --  nobody, the crew, the captain didn't come on. So it was very frightening." 

An initial inspection by the Federal Aviation Adminstration revealed that engine turbine blades had broken off and fallen to the ground mid-flight. They were later recovered by investigators near the airport.

The pilots managed to get the Boeing 737 back to the runway without incident or injuries.

The same type of engine exploded on November 17, 2007 while a Southwest Airlines 737 was climbing to its cruising altitude.

That plane also returned safety, landing at Love Field in Dallas without any injuries reported.

Over the years, 20,000 GE engines have powered more than 5,000 Boeing 737s and various Airbus aircraft. Altogether, they have flown over 470 million hours.

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