An American Airlines airplane bound for Miami skidded to a halt on the runway at Chicago O’Hare Airport Friday afternoon after an “uncontained engine failure” sent pieces of the engine flying and caused part of the plane to burst into flames.
Twenty people were taken to the hospital with injuries, most of them minor and caused during an emergency evacuation of the plane. The airplane was carrying 161 passengers and nine crewmembers.
AA Flight 383 had just started taking off about 2:23 p.m. when the pilot radioed air traffic controllers to say he was “stopping on the runway.” Air traffic radioed back “Roger, roger. Fire,” prompting the pilot to ask if the tower controllers could see fire. “Yeah, fire off the right wing,” air control replied.
“The danger of such a rare and serious failure is that engine pieces effectively become shrapnel and can cause extensive damage to the aircraft,” the Associated Press reported, citing a federal official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Passengers reported hearing an explosion as the plane sped down the runway. Then flames and smoke became visible. Shortly after stopping, the right side of the plane became engulfed in fire, sending panicked passengers to move to the left side.
One passenger told WLS-TV that within seconds “there was smoke in the plane and the fire is right up against the windows, and it’s melting the windows.”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent investigators to Chicago O’Hare Saturday. Lorenda Ward, senior NTSB investigator in charge, said in a press conference that debris from the engine was found nearly a third of a mile away. Another metallic piece of the engine crashed through the roof of a UPS facility at the airport, about 3,000 feet away from the plane.