‘Uncontained engine failure’ led to the aborted takeoff at O’Hare

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Lorenda Ward, a senior investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, addresses reporters at the American Airlines baggage claim at O’Hare International Airport Saturday evening. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times.

An “uncontained engine failure” caused a fire that ended with the aborted takeoff of an American Airlines plane at O’Hare International Airport, federal officials said Saturday.

Lorenda Ward, senior investigator in charge with the National Transportation Safety Board, told reporters though no fire breached the cabin of Flight 383, the uncontained engine failure resulted in fuel pooling under the plane’s right wing, which then caught fire.

About 20 people on the plane were taken to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, and all had been discharged as of Saturday evening, Ward said.

She added that an examination of one of the plane’s engines found a piece of the turbine had failed.

One piece of the engine was found in a UPS warehouse about 2,900 feet away from the plane, Ward said. Another piece was found about 1,600 feet away, but it was still on O’Hare property, she added.

The remnants of the engine part recovered so far have been sent to the NTSB lab in Washington, D.C.

The runway on which the fire occurred, Runway 28 Right 10 Left, remained closed for cleaning as of Saturday evening but was to be reopened by 7 a.m. Sunday, officials said.

Ward said it’s too early to tell what caused the initial engine failure.

Asked what would have happened if the engine had failed during Friday’s flight to Miami, Ward declined to answer.

The plane caught fire about 2:35 p.m. Friday just before takeoff, spewing huge billows of black smoke across O’Hare Airport.

But passengers and crew were able to escape the Boeing 767 on chutes, officials said.

Of the approximately 20 people taken to area hospitals, most sustained bruises and ankle sprains after sliding down an inflatable ramp, Chicago Fire Department District Chief Juan Hernandez said.

The plane was moments before taking off when the fire happened.

The fire was the most “significant” at O’Hare in about eight years, Fire District Chief Timothy Sampey said Friday, and could have been far worse. A fully-loaded 767 carries about 43,000 pounds of fuel, he said.


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