A Japan Airlines Boeing 777 heading from Naha Airport in Okinawa to Haneda Airport in Tokyo suffered engine damage and failure shortly after take-off, forcing it to return back to its origin airport.
The failure was reportedly caused by significant damage to the engine, caused when parts of the engine, including its cover, broke up mid-flight.
According to reports, the left engine of the wide-bodied aircraft began to experience difficulties five minutes after departure from Naha, at an altitude of around 18,000 feet.
Passengers onboard Japan Airlines flight 904 reported hearing a loud “boom” at this time, which caused fear throughout the cabin.
The pilots then turned around and made an emergency landing back at Naha Airport.
The plane landed safely, however upon landing it was found that the external cover of the left engine had completely fallen off during the flight, exposing the metallic insides of the engine.
Two of the fan blades in the front section of the left engine, as well as the case that surrounds them, had been damaged in the incident.
The engine cover and any loose matter lost when it fell have not yet been recovered, however the plane was travelling over the ocean when the incident is believed to have occurred.
While there were no injuries reported within the 11 crew or 178 passengers on the plane, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism designated it a “serious incident” that could have developed into a major accident.
The ministry’s Transport Safety Board said it would dispatch three of its investigators to look into the damage and its cause.
A Tokyo man in his 40s who was onboard the flight spoke of the incident: “Suddenly there was an explosive noise that went ‘boom’ and there was a big impact. The captain announced, ‘Please stay calm. We will head back to Naha Airport’. It was frightening.”
Another passenger, a man in his 60s from the north-east Japan prefecture of Fukushima said, “I thought a bomb had fallen. My heart was in my mouth. Even after we turned back to Naha, the plane continued to shake, and I was worried whether we would be able to land safely.”