A United Airlines plane had a ‘terrifying’ emergency landing after one of its engines overheated over the ocean, according to a reporter who was on board the plane.
United Flight 1516 bound for Houston, Texas, from Liberia, Costa Rica, because of the engine problem on the Boeing 737-800.
“One of my plane’s engines overheated over the ocean. We about crashed in an emergency landing before the pilot quickly pulled up. So scary,” Jody Genessy, one of the passengers onboard, tweeted after landing safely.
“Still shaken up, but very grateful to be alive. We have four kids at home in Utah. I was scared they’d never see us again,” Genessy tells PEOPLE about his United flight with his wife, Heather. Genessy was on a trip with health coaches from Take Shape for Life.
“They stopped traffic into the Liberia, Costa Rica airport. Fire trucks, ambulances and emergency vehicles waited for us to land. Freaky,” he continued in his series of tweets. “We circled over the ocean for an hour to burn fuel before landing. I fly a lot. This was the most frightening thing I’ve ever experienced.”
In a statement to PEOPLE, United Airlines commented on the incident: “Flight 1516, traveling from Liberia, Costa Rica to Houston, returned to Liberia due to a maintenance issue. The plane landed safely and a new aircraft is being sent to take customers to Houston tomorrow. We apologize to all customers on board for their experience and will be providing compensation for the inconvenience.”
United could not confirm the cause of the incident but did mention that the “maintenance team is reviewing.”
“The plane tilted to the right and the wing almost hit the runway, which would’ve been awful. The pilot corrected the plane and we almost went sideways, but he pulled up just in time,” Genessy wrote on Facebook.
According to local reports, the plane took off from Daniel Oduber International Airport then landed back at the airport about two hours later.
Leonel Jiménez, Fire Supervisor of Costa Rica, confirmed to local media outlets that the airport was put on alert 3. “It comes with an emergency overheating in an engine, the units are waiting,” Jiménez said in a statement.
“What I have is a United 737-800 aircraft, which is being maintained in Liberia’s airspace, is burning fuel to safely land again,” Enio Cubillo, director of Civil Aviation, told the local news. “At the moment he is holding to burn enough fuel to land safely.”
Generally speaking, modern twin-engine jets can fly for hundreds of miles on one engine. If a twin-engine jet conducts over-the-ocean operations, it is required by the FAA to be able to fly for hundreds of miles, and sometimes more than 1,000 miles, on one engine. The FAA investigates all incidents in which U.S. registered airliners experience engine problems.
This latest United mishap comes weeks after officials violently dragged a man from an overbooked flight – causing mass outrage.
David Dao, 69, was one of four passengers asked to leave an oversold Louisville-bound flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport so airline employees could board the plane. The altercation left Dao bloodied and bruised as officials with the Chicago Department of Aviation dragged him through the aisle of the aircraft.
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Facebook footage of the incident drew the ire of social media users everywhere, causing a media storm.
The Chicago Department of Aviation announced days after the incident that an officer involved has been placed on leave.