Last updated: 07:36 PM ET, Sun August 09 2015

All Passengers Safe After Flames Erupt from 2 Airliners

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | August 09, 2015

All Passengers Safe After Flames Erupt from 2 Airliners

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

The Federal Aviation Administration is currently investigating two incidents that occurred on Friday when flames erupted from commercial airliners.

A SkyWest aircraft operating as a Delta flight at Nashville International was the first as reported by The Tennessean.

About to start a trip to Cincinnati with 50 passengers and three crew, the plane pushed back from the jet bridge on the Concourse B tarmac at about 6:45 a.m. The engine was turned on and an auxiliary unit immediately caught fire, said airport spokesperson Shannon Sumrall.

In full view of onlookers inside the terminal, flames began shooting out of the plane.

Sumrall noted that when the pilot shut down the engine, the fire extinguished itself. No one was injured, and the passengers disembarked after the airliner was towed back to the gate. The fliers were rebooked on other flights.

CNN quoted Delta spokesperson Michael Thomas who said the plane "experienced a brief flame upon engine startup, which immediately dissipated. There was no fire and no emergency was declared. Technicians are evaluating the CRJ-200 aircraft.”

Thomas told CNN the flame was from "small excess fuel in the tailpipe of the engine being expunged from the rear of the engine."

Those onboard had a far different experience than witnesses outside. Nashville resident Phil Cobucci, 32, told The Tennessean, "No one heard anything. The plane really just stopped in the middle of the tarmac," he said. "The captain said, 'We had a misfire,' which didn't really make it sound like the picture I saw (later) when they started popping up on Twitter."

University of Utah professor Jason Taylor said to The Tennessean he was at gate B7 waiting to get on a flight to Salt Lake City when he saw the flames. "Within five to 10 seconds the fire went out on its own," said Taylor, 31. "A lot of the ground workers were running toward the plane. It extinguished pretty quickly and some emergency personnel arrived."

"The ball of fire lasted for several seconds," Taylor added. "It freaked a lot of people out. You don't often see fires on planes."

The second incident occurred Friday night, when US Airways Flight 669 with 133 passengers and five crew made an emergency landing soon after takeoff from Philadelphia International when flames began shooting out of an engine, The Inquirer reported.

An “engine issue” was reported with the Airbus 320 just after takeoff for Seattle, said Josh Freed, spokesperson for American Airlines to The Inquirer (US Airways is merging with American Airlines).

Freed added the engine was never on fire and never lost power, clarifying that the flames were caused by "fuel that burns off as it leaves the back of the engine."

After a safe landing at 9:22 p.m., passengers boarded another flight bound for their destination, Freed said.

Passenger Ethan Burger, 16, said to The Inquirer he noticed "some kind of bumping noises" and the plane "shaking a bit" after takeoff. He opened his window and "there were flames spitting from the engine," he said.

He said other fliers could see the fire, which he estimated lasted for about five minutes, but "everybody was pretty calm."

As the aircraft’s short flight came to an end, Philadelphia-area police began receiving 911 calls as the conflagration was visible from the ground.

In the yard of his Fishtown home, Joe Zeni, 36, told The Inquirer he first heard "loud bursts of air," similar a machine gun.

When he looked overhead, he saw what looked like a commercial airliner with "big orange flames shooting out of the left engine."

Zeni said to The Inquirer he saw a "big burst of flames for a second or two, then another big burst of flames" before it disappeared from view.

"It was absolutely surreal," he said. "It felt like I was watching a movie."

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