A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft made an emergency landing at Orlando International Airport after an engine malfunction, the FAA has said. The jet was on its way to be grounded in the wake of the deadly MAX 8 crashes.
The jet, which was on its way to Victorville, California to be placed in temporary storage, suffered an engine problem shortly after takeoff and returned to Orlando International Airport to land. The plane had only two on board; the pilot and co-pilot.
The pilots followed protocol, and there were no injuries, according to Southwest spokesman Dan Landson, who said the plane would be taken to the airline’s Orlando maintenance facility for further examination.
“The crew of Southwest Airlines Flight 8701, a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, declared an emergency after the aircraft experienced a reported engine problem while departing from Orlando International Airport in Florida about 2:50 p.m. today,” the FAA confirmed in a statement to the Orlando Sentinel. “The aircraft returned and landed safely in Orlando. No passengers were aboard the aircraft, which was being ferried to Victorville, Calif., for storage. The FAA is investigating.”
President Donald Trump ordered every 737 MAX 8 and 9 aircraft grounded earlier this month, after two fatal accidents. Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 nosedived into a field shortly after takeoff two weeks ago, killing all 157 people on board. Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 plunged into the sea last October, killing all 189 passengers and crew.
Investigators are now checking if the plane’s software, namely the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), could be responsible for the accidents. The system adjusts the tail to keep the nose level in flight, but it is suspected that it can overcompensate, forcing the craft into a dive.
In the aftermath of the two tragedies, the spotlight has fallen on the FAA, which reportedly allowed Boeing to conduct its own “flawed” safety analysis of the jet. The FAA trusted Boeing’s conclusions, which a team of insiders claim was carried out without proper care, in an attempt to bring the plane to market before rival Airbus launched their own similar jetliner.
An unrelated Southwest Airlines flight suffered engine failure after departing New York LaGuardia Airport last April. Debris from the 737-700’s failed engine damaged a cabin window, partially sucking a passenger out of the plane and substantially damaging the aircraft. The passenger was killed in the accident, the first fatality aboard a Southwest Airlines flight.