By Maria Ponnezhath and Lisa Barrington
(Reuters) – An Atlas Air Boeing 747-8 cargo plane with five crew members made an emergency landing at Miami International Airport (MIA) late Thursday after facing an engine malfunction shortly after departure.
Unverified videos on social media platform X showed flames shooting out of the left wing of the aircraft while in flight. No injuries were reported, the airport told Reuters.
“The crew followed all standard procedures and safely returned to MIA,” the air-freight company said, adding that it would conduct an inspection to find the cause.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it will investigate the incident. Boeing deferred comment to Atlas Air.
The aircraft is eight years old, Flightradar24 data showed. The 747-8 model is powered by four General Electric GEnx engines, according to Boeing’s website.
GE was not immediately available for a comment.
Engine failures are rare but are potentially dangerous when rotating parts pierce the outer casing – an event known as an uncontained engine failure.
The engine malfunction comes against the backdrop of two high-profile jetliner accidents this year.
An Airbus A350 passenger plane operated by Japan Airlines collided with a Coast Guard aircraft in Tokyo, killing five crew members on Jan. 2.
A few days later, a Boeing 737 MAX 9 jet made an emergency landing following a cabin panel blowout, which prompted the FAA to temporarily grounded 171 jets for safety checks.
SNAG OCCURRED ON THE CLIMB
The Atlas Air Flight 5Y095 was on its way to San Juan, Puerto Rico from Miami International Airport on late Thursday evening.
The pilot made a Mayday call around 0333 GMT to report an engine fire and requested to return back to the airport, according to multi-channel recordings of conversations between the air traffic control and the plane available on liveatc.net.
“We have a engine fire,” one of the plane crew said, disclosing that there were five people on board.
The crew member said the incident involved engine number two and it occurred “on the climb out” of the airport.
Atlas Air, whose customers include parcel delivery giants DHL and FedEx, went private last year when it was bought by a group led by private equity Apollo Global Management.
Once known as the “Queen of the Skies”, the Boeing 747 revolutionized air travel and was the world’s first twin-aisle wide-body jet.
But technological advances made it possible for dual-engine jets to replicate its range and capacity at lower cost and Boeing decided in July 2020 to end 747 production.
A freighter version of the last commercial Boeing jumbo was delivered to Atlas Air last year.
(Reporting by Lisa Barrington in Seoul and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Nilutpal Timsina and Rishabh Jaiswal; Writing by Abhijith Ganapavaram; Editing by Christina Fincher, Jason Neely and Arun Koyyur)