A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 flying from Orlando to an aircraft storage facility in California made an emergency landing Tuesday after the pilots reported an issue with one of the jet’s engines, according to media reports. Southwest confirmed the incident, calling it an engine “performance issue,” according to a transcript of pilots’ conversations with air traffic controllers.
The Boeing 737 MAX is grounded worldwide, though the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is allowing airlines to operate the jets without passengers on “ferry flights” to facilities where they can be stored until they’re cleared to fly again. The Southwest 737 MAX that experienced engine troubles was en route to Victorville Southern California Logistics Airport (VCV) for storage.
Though the Boeing 737 MAX 8 has been involved in two high profile incidents that have led to its grounding, emergency landings are not unusual across all aircraft types. The FAA said in a statement to CNBC that the engine-related emergency landing of the 737 MAX in Florida did not appear to be related to concerns raised in 737 MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
But given its current level of scrutiny, any incident involving the 737 MAX, no matter how routine, is likely to draw attention.
As for the Southwest 737 MAX 8 involved in Tuesday’s incident, the jet experienced a problem with one of its engines shortly after takeoff, according to reports.
Around 2:47 PM local time, the plane, operating as Southwest flight WN8701 departed Orlando International Airport (MCO) en route to Victorville in Southern California. Moments after takeoff, the pilots reported issues with one of the engines. The aircraft returned to Orlando and landed safely. No injuries have been reported.
The incident is being referred to as an engine performance issue. However, an Orlando TV station obtained audio it says details conversations between pilots and controllers. “We just lost our right engine. Need to declare an emergency,” the audio says, according to WKMG TV.
Earlier this month, following two fatal crashes and mounting pressure from international transportation regulatory agencies, the FAA announced the Boeing 737 MAX would be grounded until further notice.
Investigations into the crashes continue, though Boeing’s new MCAS system on its MAX jets has drawn scrutiny.
With the possibility that the Boeing 737 MAX may remain grounded for weeks or months, airlines have begun relocating their Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to airports for long-term storage. Southwest has moved many of its 737 MAX 8 aircraft to the Victorville facility.
Southwest flight WN8701 was operating as a one of those repositioning flights.
Southwest Airlines has issued the following statement regarding Southwest Airlines flight WN8701:
“Southwest Flight 8701 operating as a ferry flight with no passengers onboard returned to Orlando International Airport just before 3pm EDT after Pilots reported a performance issue with one of the engines shortly after takeoff. The Crew followed protocol and safely landed back at the airport. The flight was scheduled to fly to Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, Calif., for short-term storage. The Boeing 737 MAX 8 will be moved to our Orlando maintenance facility for a review.”
Featured image by Ralph Freso/Getty Images
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