Newly released video obtained by NBC 5 Investigates shows just how close an American Airlines jetliner came to disaster when an engine exploded on takeoff last October.
The aircraft, bound for Miami, was on its takeoff roll on Oct. 28 when a fan disk in the right engine flew apart, severing a fuel line and igniting a roaring fire. Observers agree the result would likely have been a fiery crash if the flight had actually gotten airborne. Instead, the crew brought the plane to a screeching stop on runway 28 Right, evacuating all passengers safely.
At the time of the engine explosion, the aircraft was traveling at 128 knots (about 147 mph). The captain aborted the takeoff roll and brought the burning plane to a stop 26 seconds after the fan blade ruptured.
Video from two different views of the field show the plane hurtling down the runway as a puff of smoke belches out of the engine. Then, flames erupt as fuel begins gushing from the severed line.
Inside the plane, flight attendants described passengers climbing over seats to get out.
One said she could see the flames leaping over the right wing, but could not reach the captain, despite repeated calls by intercom to the cockpit.
“Immediately, passengers were at her door, pleading to get off the airplane,” the NTSB report stated. “The 4L slide deployed, but was blowing towards the rear of the airplane because the engine was still running.”
Multiple views from Chicago Fire Department crash trucks show the scene as firefighters arrived within seconds of the plane coming to a halt. Those planes apply fire retardant foam to the burning jet fuel, which reach as much as 2500 degrees farenheit.
The official report depicted a remarkable evacuation. When the captain and first officer finished all of their emergency procedures, they opened the cockpit door, only to find that all passengers were already off the aircraft. The last occupant jumped into an evacuation slide just 2 minutes and 21 seconds after the plane came to a stop.
The reports make clear that there are two primary areas of concern. The first, the fan blade itself. Microscopic examination revealed that the disk had what is termed an “internal inclusion,” or foreign debris actually embedded in the metal.
Secondly, investigators are clearly zeroing in on the design of the wing, where so-called “dry bays” above the engines, designed to keep fuel tanks in the wing away from areas where shards of metal from an incident like this, might lead to a catastrophic rupture.
In this incident, pieces of the disk penetrated the dry bay of the right wing, severing a fuel line in the one area where it passed through. An estimated 2,040 gallons of fuel gushed from the wing, engulfing the right side of the aircraft in flames.
The formal NTSB investigation continues.