United Airlines Plane Loses Part of Its Wing Mid-Air

Efthymis Oraiopoulos
By Efthymis Oraiopoulos
February 23, 2024US News
United Airlines Plane Loses Part of Its Wing Mid-Air
A United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplane takes off from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) as seen from El Segundo, Calif., on Sept. 11, 2023. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

A United Airlines plane lost a part of its wing in mid-air and made an emergency landing in Denver.

Kevin Clarke, a passenger on the flight, recorded the incident on his cellphone and talked to local media about what he experienced.

The United Flight 354 departed from San Francisco and was bound for Boston, with the plane type being a Boeing 757-200, according to FOX.

Initially, Mr. Clarke thought the damage could be due to a bird strike.

“I’m like bird strike? That’s not good,” Mr. Clarke told Boston 25 News. “We take off, I heard this loud buzzing noise, and then it faded away so I didn’t think much of it, and all of a sudden the pilot is coming back, so I threw my window open, peeked out the window and the whole leading edge of the wing was destroyed.”

Mr. Clarke saw himself that the slat of the plane’s right wing had come off.

“Just about to land in Denver with the wing coming apart on the plane,” Mr. Clarke says in his video. “Came apart when we took off in San Francisco, and we’re just about on the ground. Can’t wait for this flight to be over.”

“First there was some panic, but the pilot had come back, looked at it, took some pictures of it, talked to the guys on the ground, said yup, proceed to Denver, shouldn’t be a problem,” Mr. Clarke said.

The 164 passengers of the United flight boarded a new plane after the emergency landing in Denver and arrived at Logan Airport in Boston about three hours later than scheduled.

“On Monday, United flight 354 diverted to Denver to address an issue with the slat on the wing of the aircraft,” a United spokesperson told NTD. “The flight landed safely and we arranged for a different aircraft to take customers to their destination, which arrived in Boston later that night.”

Mr. Clarke said United Airlines handled the situation well but also said that he was glad to be alive.

Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bird Strikes

Bird strikes can cause serious problems to aircraft, as in a previous case of an American Airlines flight.

An apparent bird strike forced the flight to an emergency landing last year, with no casualties reported, and with the aircraft going out for service for maintenance.

One eyewitness on the Columbus, Ohio, flight said they saw “major engine issues just after take off.”

“Flames shooting from the engine and wonky, pulsing noises from the aircraft,” the witness said on X, formerly known as Twitter, while sharing a video of the incident.

Flames were reported to be visible from the right engine of the plane. Videos of the smokey landing have been shared widely on social media.

According to a statement from the airline, pilots suspected that the plane hit a flock of geese shortly after take off.

American Airlines said the aircraft had experienced “mechanical issues” and not an engine fire.

In another instance last year, a Southwest Airlines flight bound for Florida was forced to return to Cuba due to a bird strike reportedly causing an engine to catch fire, filling the cabin with smoke.

The air carrier confirmed in a statement that 147 passengers and six crew members were safely evacuated from the plane via slides.

Southwest flight #2923 departed from Havana’s José Martí International Airport and was en route to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport when it “experienced bird strikes to an engine and the aircraft’s nose,” the company said.

Melanie Sun and Lorenz Duchamps contributed to this report.

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