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On Friday morning, passengers on Frontier flight 260 experienced a terrifying ride. During the takeoff roll at Las Vegas International Airport (LAS), a portion of the Tampa-bound aircraft’s “engine cover (…) came loose and separated from the aircraft,” according to a statement from the airline.

Chicago-based news anchor Dan Ponce tweeted a photo that his aunt took of the engine in flight:

Another Twitter user shared a photo of the same aircraft on the ground in Las Vegas after the incident:

Sure enough, a Frontier Airlines spokesperson confirmed that part of the engine cowling “separated from the aircraft” in the following statement provided to TPG:

During takeoff on Frontier flight 260 from Las Vegas to Tampa this morning, a section of an engine cover called a cowling came loose and separated from the aircraft. Our pilots followed procedure and immediately returned to the airport. The engine continued to operate normally and the aircraft, an Airbus 320, landed safely. Safety is our top priority at Frontier Airlines and we would like to acknowledge the professionalism of our pilots and flight attendants. We are working to get our passengers to their destinations as quickly as possible.

The engine wasn’t “shredded” as one of the tweets indicated, although it certainly looked like it was. The cover around the engine doesn’t have a direct role in the engine’s operation, but what happened posed the risk of engine damage, and could have escalated if the captain hadn’t decided to land immediately.

The spokesperson didn’t respond directly to our inquiry about how the passengers were being compensated for the delay. However, Dan Ponce’s tweet about the situation noted that the passengers were offered a breakfast voucher.

According to ADS-B data collected by FlightRadar24, the aircraft took off at 7:12am local time in Las Vegas and landed back on the same runway at 7:26am. The airport is located at 2,181 feet of altitude and the ADS-B data indicated that the aircraft didn’t climb over 6,925 feet of altitude — indicating that the aircraft didn’t climb more than 5,000 feet off of the ground during the 14-minute flight.

It’s unclear if the aircraft itself was damaged in the incident beyond the engine cowling. The aircraft involved in the situation was an Airbus A320-200 with the registration N227FR. The four-year old aircraft was delivered new to Frontier Airlines in July 2014. The aircraft’s tail features one of the airline’s signature animals, Grizwald the Grizzly Bear.

Featured image posted to Twitter by WGN reporter Dan Ponce.

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