I’ve done my fair share of complaining about the failing levels of customer service on commercial flights these days. The cramped seats, long delays, bumped passengers and lack of amenities are enough to drive an otherwise stable person (or genius) to drink. But now that we’ve seen what the passengers of United Flight 1175 to Hawaii had to go through today perhaps I’ll cut them a bit of slack.
Most of the passengers watched in horror as parts of the starboard engine began coming undone and falling off the aircraft while they were still over the ocean. Sort of gives a new meaning to the concept of a wing and a prayer, huh?
A United Airlines flight landed safely Tuesday in Honolulu after an engine cover came off during its flight from California, the airline said.
“Our pilots followed all necessary protocols to safely land the aircraft,” United said in a statement, adding that all passengers departed the Boeing 777 normally at the gate.
The airliner landed as emergency responders waited nearby, said Hawaii Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara.
Flight 1175 was traveling to Honolulu from San Francisco. Images posted on social media show an engine with the exterior cover missing as the plane approaches Honolulu.
This video from CBS News has the clips and still pictures taken by the passengers. It’s disconcerting to say the least.
Personally, that looks to me like more than just “the engine cover” came off, but I’ll leave that up to the authorities to determine. But either way, I’m having a hard time picturing what it must have been like for the passengers. I’m a nervous flyer to begin with and always find myself looking around uneasily if I detect a noise coming from the aircraft which isn’t familiar to me. Seeing large chunks of the engine outside my window blowing away and falling toward the ocean would be more than enough to send me over the edge.
As it turns out, the 777 is supposedly designed to be able to fly for three hours and land with a single engine. That probably wasn’t a great deal of consolation to the passengers on that flight. And since a flight from California to Hawaii takes roughly 5 hours and 40 minutes on average, even in the exact center of the route you should, in theory, still be able to either make it to your destination or turn back with only one engine. I’d prefer not to try it myself, though.
Of course, no story like this would be complete without a key clip from one of the most horrifying moments from television in the 1950s. It’s William Shatner in an episode of Twilight Zone called Nightmare at 20,000 feet. He’s a passenger on a plane where something even worse happens. It’s completely low tech compared to our movies and television today, but I still get scared watching it.