Initially, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board ruled Spirit Airlines flight 165, from Dallas to Atlanta had an "uncontained" explosion. But, released Friday, new information shows the engine failed the way it was supposed to, according to NTSB representative Eric Weiss.
That may nor may not be good news for passengers on board the damaged aircraft. Many believed they were close to spending their last moments on earth.
But, from an investigative and mechanical standpoint, a "contained" failure is a way better scenario than "uncontained."
Engines are designed during certain situations, such as bird strikes, to keep any shrapnel inside the engine casing. Investigators said a "contained" failure is still considered catastrophic, but it's an event pilots train for and is not unusual.
In the event of an "uncontained" failure, pieces of debris could have ripped through the fuselage, ruptured the fuel line, or damaged the integrity of the plane's ability to fly. This "contained" failure is better for the safety of passengers, but at the time, many described the incident as the most horrific experience of their lives.
"It was just terrible," passenger Casey Rogers said. "We thought it was over."
The flight was en route from Dallas to Atlanta Tuesday afternoon when the aircraft's left engine exploded mid-air.
One passenger told CBS Atlanta's Mike Paluska the Airbus A319 was in the air for about 20 minutes when the engine exploded.
"All of a sudden, there was a bang, and thud, thud, thud, and a boom and flames," Randy Bryan said. "The metal flapping outside, and the vibrations were scary, that was the scary part. Because at any time, something could fly off and hit the tail and we could lose control."
Bryan recorded nearly nine minutes of video as the plane descended towards Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. The video shows some passengers praying and others in a brace position. During the recording, the airplane shakes violently, making noises that any passenger would be terrified to hear.
"It was making weird sounds," Bryan said. "It was shaking so violently, when you talked you couldn't help that waver in your voice."
"It was scary," Rogers said. "I knew it blew up because that kind of loud explosion and the flames coming out and everything. I didn't know it was that serious, that parts were leaving the engine, it could have been really bad for everyone on that plane."
Rogers was traveling to Atlanta with a co-worker, Fred Edwards. The two are working an RV show for National Indoor RV Centers. Immediately following the emergency landing they were listed on another Spirit flight leaving for Atlanta. Rogers said it has been a tough couple of days juggling work, with one thing on his mind - home.
"I miss my wife, I can't way to see my kids," Rogers said. "Right now, I am trying not to think about it. I am trying to keep my head in why I am here, and that is to work, and do what I need to do here. And I am going to continue doing that."
Edwards said he is disappointed with the way Spirit Airlines handled the initial emergency. Once the plane landed safely, with no injuries at Dallas Fort Worth International, he said the company treated the passengers as if what happened was a routine mechanical issue.
"You need to take care of your passengers, you need to tell them ‘we are sorry' but no answer at all, we got a $7 voucher in the airport for dinner. Find something [to buy] for $7 in an airport," Edwards said. "When they came on the speaker they said, ‘We are going to give you a $100 voucher to purchase another ticket on our airline.' I don't want to purchase another ticket, I don't feel safe honestly. I'm never flying Spirit again."
A representative with Spirit Airlines sent CBS Atlanta this statement regarding the mechanical issue on the plane and the passengers' concerns:
"We understand that this was a frightening experience. We have contacted customers on the flight to assure them that their safety, as always, is our top priority.
"We commend Spirit's pilots and flight attendants for effectively managing the event with expertise and in compliance with well-trained and coordinated procedures. They displayed great professionalism, care and compassion in communicating with customers during the flight by explaining the situation and reviewing safety procedures. They, along with multiple supervisors and customer service agents, ensured that everyone was fine on landing and also assisted in getting them to another plane to Atlanta.
"When the pilots received indication of an issue, they immediately put their professional expertise and training into action in order to safely return to DFW. One engine was shut down. However, it's important to know that all of our aircraft are designed to operate safely on one engine if necessary. Customers experienced vibrations as the plane was operating on one engine and as the pilots navigated a controlled path back to DFW through weather that was in the area. It was a normal landing and customers deplaned safely with no injuries."
The NTSB said the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were recovered. The engine, an International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500, has been removed from the plane and will be shipped to a separate facility for a detailed examination and disassembly.
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