Engine flames, plane returns

A Southwest Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing at McCarran International Airport just after takeoff Thursday afternoon when a fire warning light for one of the plane’s engines illuminated.

Witnesses on the ground described flames shooting from the right engine of Southwest flight 273 as it left the airport at 3:09 p.m.

The Boeing 737 had 116 passengers and five crew members on board. It was headed for Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, N.Y., when it was forced to turn around, Southwest spokesman Paul Flaningan said.

The plane landed safely at McCarran at 3:28 p.m., according to a Federal Aviation Administration official. No one was injured.

“People in the McCarran control tower could see the engine was on fire,” said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the aviation administration.

Jim Kelly, who lives just east of the airport at an apartment complex in the 5000 block of Swenson Street, said he heard what sounded like a shotgun blast and went outside to see flames shooting out of the plane’s right engine.

“Flames were jutting out of the engine in waves,” Kelly said. He immediately called emergency services to make sure they were aware of the situation.

Tom Adams, who lives near Oakey Boulevard and Bruce Street, beneath the flight path used by jetliners, said he heard a loud sound, which he described as a “flame-out,” and went outside to see what happened.

“I could see flames coming out of the right side. I saw what looked like a bright light at first and I looked a little closer and it was flame coming out of the right engine,” the 62-year-old said.

Flaningan said once the fire warning light went off, the pilot shut down the engine and headed back to McCarran.

There were no signs of fire once the plane landed. It was escorted by Clark County firefighters to a terminal, Flaningan said.

Once off the plane, passengers were checked out by emergency personnel and no injuries reported, said Karl Lee, a fire department spokesman.

The passengers were expected to board another flight to New York at 5:15 p.m. Thursday, Flaningan said.

It was “too early to tell” what caused the fire, Flaningan said. Gregor added the aviation administration would be investigating the incident.

In the meantime, Kelly said the incident didn’t worry him and he feels safe living near the airport.

“It’s safer than other parts of the city,” he said. “And they (McCarran airport) have a great record.”

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904. Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308. Review-Journal writers Lynnette Curtis, Brian Haynes and Antonio Planas contributed to this report.

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