United Airlines Plane Forced Back to Airport After Engine Piece Falls Off

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Jun 21, 2024

A United Airlines Holdings Inc. plane was forced back to the airport it had just left after an engine piece cover fell off upon liftoff.

This latest event comes as United — and all airlines and aircraft — have come under increasing scrutiny by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as well as the public, thanks to frequent air incidents.

An Unusual Sound

When this United plane took off from Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Connecticut on Thursday morning, it was headed to Denver International Airport.

A close-up of a United Airlines plane on a tarmac.

Source: Emiel Molenaar/Unsplash

However, things quickly went amiss when the crew of the jet heard what they deemed to be an “abnormal noise.”


An Engine Part on the Runway

Upon inspection after the landing, investigators found that the plane had lost a part of the liner from inside the plane’s engine’s cover on the runway.

A United plane on an airport tarmac by a cart and a person, with another plane behind it.

Source: Tim Gouw/Unsplash

This “sound-dampening outer liner” had seemingly fallen off when the plane was taking off from the airport.

Debris Scattered on the Runway

However, it appears that quite a lot of debris had fallen on the tarmac after this United jet took off. Several pieces of sheet metal were recovered after the plane took off.

A United Airlines plane up in the air.

Source: Aerojet/Unsplash

Meanwhile, even more debris fell off the plane when it turned back to the airport and landed, according to conversations heard between the plane and the airport control tower.

Why the Flight Turned Around

It appears this United plane turned back around to head to the airport for a variety of reasons, once they realized debris was falling off of the craft. After the crew heard an unusual noise, a pilot on a JetBlue Airways Corp. plane spoke to the tower to report the sight of debris from the jet.

United planes on an airport tarmac with vans and carts around them.

Source: Christian Lambert/Unsplash

This caused the tower to diver various other planes on the tarmac to other runways while they worked to clean up this debris.

Unusual Gas Temperatures

Meanwhile, around the same time, the pilot of this particular United jet spoke to the tower to explain that one of its engines was acting slightly unusual and exceeding its normal exhaust gas temperatures.

Exhaust seen coming from a United plane taking off from a tarmac.

Source: Ryuno/Unsplash

The pilot explained that he was worried they may have either blown a tire while taking off or hit a bird.


A Declared Emergency

Because of these various situations all happening at the same time, the pilot decided to declare an emergency and turn back around to keep passengers safe.

Two pilots seen in the cockpit of a plane.

Source: Blake Guidry/Unsplash

“We are declaring an emergency,” the pilot said. “Everything is running fine, the engine is within parameters.”


A Safe Landing

Though even more debris fell off the plane when it landed, it appears that all passengers and crew members were able to get off the plane uninjured.

An interior shot of a United Airlines flight with passengers sitting down.

Source: Gus Ruballo/Unsplash

This Airbus SE A320 craft had 124 passengers, as well as five crew members. After landing, the plane was able to taxi to an airport gate.


An Old Plane

Notably, this Airbus is a 22-year-old plane. Normally, when older planes have incidents such as this, it’s likely a result of the plane itself and is considered an isolated incident. It’s not considered to be a manufacturing problem.

A United Airlines jet seen shooting straight up into the air.

Source: Y S/Unsplash

However, as this plane’s incident comes during a time when many newer aircraft — specifically Boeing jets — have increasingly had problems while up in the air, this situation is being looked at very closely.


The FAA Is Now Investigating

Now, the FAA is investigating this incident, marking yet another United situation under FAA investigation.

A look up at a United jet seen above thin clouds.

Source: Y S/Unsplash

United has been under review by the FAA since the beginning of this year, after the airline company had many incidents that have potentially put passengers in dangerous situations while in the air.


Other United Incidents

United has had many other unfortunate incidents this year, similar to many other airline companies.

Many United Airlines planes parked on an airport tarmac in front of a city.

Source: Jason Leung/Unsplash

One United plane had a piece of its fuselage come loose during a flight. Meanwhile, another plane had its wheel fall off during takeoff, resulting in remarkable footage of the situation lighting up social media and major mainstream news.


2024’s Plane Issues

Since the beginning of 2024, when a panel completely blew off of an Alaska Airlines flight while up in the air in January, airliners have seemingly had one incident after the other. As a result, the FAA and the mass public have been closely scrutinizing these issues.

The silhouette of a plane seen underneath a yellow sky during takeoff.

Source: Bing Hui Yau/Unsplash

United isn’t alone in having these struggles. Recently, a Southwest flight experienced a rare and dangerous “Dutch roll” maneuver. Dutch rolls are incredibly dangerous, as they can result in the loss of control of the aircraft.