Report Details Chaotic Scene During Fiery American Airlines Evacuation

Jul 10, 2017

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

On October 28 last year, American Airlines flight 383 was departing Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD) for Miami (MIA) when it suffered what’s known as an uncontained engine failure, caused by a weakness in the high-pressure turbine disk of the General Electric CF6 engine on the right side of the plane. The engine basically exploded and sent debris flying, piercing the plane’s wing, resulting in a catastrophic fuel fire which severely damaged the plane.

The National Transportation Safety Board released preliminary findings from the incident a few days ago. The report is troublesome, describing passengers ignoring instructions from flight attendants, and passengers being knocked down by the hot exhaust from a jet engine that was left running briefly during the evacuation.

Within the report, at least three flight attendants testified that they encountered passengers who refused to leave their personal belongings behind on the plane as instructed. They ended up having to allow those passengers to evacuate with their stuff, rather than delaying the process and jeopardizing lives. Thankfully, only minor injuries occurred during the evacuation.

Image courtesy of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
Image courtesy of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

A piece of the engine went through the wing when the turbine disk failed. That piece went over the plane, and landed inside a UPS warehouse (Disk fragment A), about a quarter-mile away.

In hindsight, it’s fortunate the incident occurred while the plane was still on the runway. Had it happened a few seconds later with the plane in the air, the number of casualties/injuries would surely have been significantly higher, considering the damage to the wing. Much of the resulting fire happened due to spilled fuel from the pierced wing. The heat was so intense that the outer portion of the wing melted and fell limp to the ground.

The pilots brought the plane to a stop on the runway, about 30 seconds after the engine failure. But for unknown reasons, they did not immediately shut off the remaining functioning engine. The NTSB report says passengers were attempting to evacuate, but the flight attendants aboard the plane had to hold them back, because of the running engine. On one side, the engine and ground were on fire, but the other side was equally dangerous due to the running engine.

Evacuation slides were deployed on the non-fiery side of the plane, but the hot exhaust from the running engine blew the aft slides backward, delaying the evacuation even more. Once the cabin began filling with smoke, flight attendants had no choice but to let passengers egress, bags and all. Some passengers reported being knocked down and/or burned by the engine exhaust. However, those injuries pale in comparison to what could have happened.

Thankfully, everyone aboard flight 383 survived in spite of the oddities of the evacuation and the passengers who insisted on evacuating with their own belongings. It would be great if airlines could lock down the overhead bins during evacuation. At least one manufacturer (Zodiac Aerospace) is working on that function, but we haven’t seen this capability implemented yet.

Featured image by @CaptPuneetNagi on Twitter.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.