WJTV News Channel 12 - Flight returns safely to RDU after birds kill engine

Flight returns safely to RDU after birds kill engine

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Luggage from Southwest Airlines Flight 220 waits to be claimed. Luggage from Southwest Airlines Flight 220 waits to be claimed.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

A Southwest Airlines flight made a safe landing at RDU Monday after losing an engine due to a bird strike.

Southwest Airlines Flight 220 departed from Raleigh-Durham International Airport around 6:15 p.m. Monday with a final destination of Chicago Midway International Airport. However, shortly after takeoff, the Boeing 737 was forced to make an emergency landing back at RDU.

Southwest's Whitney Eichinger said the flight crew reported a bird strike shortly after departure and immediately returned.

She said the plane, with a five-person crew, shut down the affected engine before landing safely back at Raleigh-Durham and taxing to the gate.

Shelley Chen, who was on her way home to Portland, Ore., said she "smelled something" and "saw flashing flames," which was when a number of passengers began "freaking out."

"I was sitting on the right side and you could see the flames shooting out from the engine. Then they had to turn off engine one," Chen said.

Another passenger on the plane, Shelly Tranchita, of Chicago, said before smelling smoke, she initially felt what she described as a tire blowing underneath the front, left side of the plane.

"You just heard, 'Whah-whomp, whah-whomp,' and it was like a pinwheel and you heard it hitting things," Tranchita described.

"We knew something was wrong because although we were holding altitude, we were circling," Tranchita said. "We could tell we weren't going anywhere, we weren't going as high as we should have gone."

She said the flight attendants were initially unsure what was wrong, but the pilot came on over the intercom and explained that birds had flown into engine one. "So we were no longer working with our main engine," she said.

Although Tranchita said the experience was "very, very scary," she was "highly impressed" with the flight crew.

"They kept us calm and kept us safe, and I thank God for that," Tranchita said.

Tranchita said after landing, the passengers applauded and then walked off the plane.

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