May 10, 2007

Engine Trouble

2007 is proving to be an exciting drama filled year. First, I was chased by the NYPD in January. Yesterday, on my return to Chicago, we had an incident in the air.

So I had a bad vibe that hovered since morning. I couldn't place it. I wandered around Chicago with an ominous feeling all day long. We boarded the plane -- the flight attendant was unkind about helping me put my five pound small bag up in the bin, but everything else was rather uneventful.

Take off. Um, sparks. Flames. Smoke...where I happened to be sitting, immediately behind the wing. Really bad burning smell seeping through the cabin.

What I love about United is Channel 9 Audio -- air traffic control communication is open to all passengers, which I happen to find fascinating audio. The most exciting thing in the past was hearing the Air France pilot speak -- gotta love an accent. So our pilot explains to air traffic control that we had a 'bird strike' -- a "fairly large bird, like a goose or something."

Shortly after take off, at about 5000 feet, a goose (or something) went straight through our right engine -- hence the sparks, flame, and smoke. The burning smell entered the cabin, at which time the pilots turned off the A/C controls for that engine. While the engine was fine at 5000 feet, they were concerned how it would react when we reached cruising altitude and chose to turn us back around to land in O'Hare just to be sure.

Non-emergency landing. Sit on aircraft and wait for inspection. Announcement: This aircraft is being taken out of service. We found significant damage to the blades in the engine. At this time, please take all of your personal belongings and deboard the plane.

It was a good call from the pilots, who later also explained that the plane was taken to a hangar for further inspection for internal engine damage, and that in 30-something years of flying, he had "never smelled anything quite like that."

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