Flying is hard; everyone has an air travel horror story. Whether you’re forcibly dragged off the flight under strange circumstances or forced to return to your point of origin because someone didn’t have a ticket or literally have to flush your hamster down the toilet just to board, sometimes you just have to make do with the bare minimum, like getting from point A to point B in one piece.
Well, hopefully you’re in one piece along with the metal aircraft that your life depends on while you’re in the air. Even that small expectation was smashed, though, when passengers on a United Airlines flight from California to Hawaii watched as their airplane disintegrated in the sky.
The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Honolulu, and it landed safely yesterday at 12:38 p.m. local time, according to a statement.
“Everyone on our side flung open their windows just to see what it was,” Haley Ebert, a passenger seated in a window seat, told the New York Times. “The casing to the engine had sort of flown off. There were pieces flying into the ocean, nuts and bolts flying out a little bit. A bolt hit the wing, and it just made this huge bam.”
“They let us know that we had to brace for impact in case there was a rough landing. It was scary. But they did a really good job,” another passenger, Allison Sudiacal, told the Associated Press.
“United flight 1175 traveling to Honolulu from San Francisco landed safely after the pilots called for an emergency landing because of an issue with the #2 engine. Our pilots followed all necessary protocols to safely land the aircraft," United said in a statement. It appears that the cowling, which is the name for the casing on a plane’s engine—was loose and simply fell away during flight.
United adds that they are “fully cooperating” with investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration.
We know that everyone on board was physically OK in the end, and probably at least a bit emotionally shaken up. Nevertheless, passengers took to Twitter to share images and videos of the broken airplane, and they are simply fascinating.