United flight 213 on April 23rd from San Francisco (SFO) to Newark (EWR) had to return to SFO after just over an hour in the air after experiencing a “mechanical issue,” possibly an engine failure.
According to a passenger on the flight who asked his/her name not be used for this story, the captain told passengers, the plane had lost an engine. Flightaware.com, a flight tracking web site, reports the plane was a “B752,” which is short for the twin engine Boeing 757-200, an older United workhorse on coast-to-coast routes.
The incident has not been covered by the media, which is surprising given the crush of attention about an engine explosion on Southwest flight 1380 just four days earlier. Sadly, a woman was killed on the Southwest flight. Flight 213, according to the passenger and United, returned safely to SFO after burning off fuel with no reports of injuries. United did not confirm an engine failure, but said the plane did turn back to SFO.
“United Flight 213 on April 23 from San Francisco to Newark returned to San Francisco after experiencing a mechanical issue and returned safely to the gate. We changed aircraft to get our customers to their final destinations as quickly as possible,” United Brand Public Relations spokesperson Madhu Unnikrishnan said in an email. “That’s all the information I have.”
Here’s the passenger’s account:
“I was on United flight 213 from SFO to EWR on Monday, April 23rd. The incident occurred during the climb to cruising altitude maybe 10-15 minutes after take-off. There was no noticeable sounds, but there was an unusual seesaw roll of the plane at one point (I’m guessing this is when the engine went out and the plane reacted before it could stabilize).
Nobody really vocally reacted when it occurred, but as someone that flies a lot, it felt unusual, but not so much so that anyone that anyone noticeably reacted. It was probably 5-10 minutes later that the pilot came on and said that we had lost an engine, that everything was safe and fine, and that we would need to return to SFO.
The pilot also mentioned that we would have to circle for a bit to burn off some fuel before we could land. I would estimate it was probably another 30 min or so before we landed. For the most part, the passengers on the plane were very quiet during this time. It was an uneasy feeling, but there was no screaming, crying or outbursts.
Seconds after we landed, the passengers broke into applause. We deplaned and were informed that a new plane was coming in and the new departure time was about 9:30 pm PT (it ended up being closer to 10 p.m. before we took off).
The new flight was event free and we arrived in Newark at about 6 a.m. eastern time on April 24th. Within an hour or two after the we had landed back at SFO, I received an email from United Customer Care saying “Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience you experienced on your flight with United Airlines.” The airline offered 10,000 free miles or a $200 United credit.
I have not yet read the terms & conditions fine print, but I’m sure I’d be signing away all legal recourse if I accepted their offer. I’m not sure why the incident hasn’t made it into the media, but maybe because it was was ultimately event and injury free. I will also say that I thought the pilot and United handled everything very well. We got safely to the ground, and they quickly communicated the new flight plans.