How Serious Was The American Airlines Plane Fire At O’Hare?

CHICAGO (CBS) — The fire on an American Airlines plane at O’Hare International Airport Friday was frightening for passengers, but how serious was it? And what steps do airlines take to make sure you’re safe?

CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot takes a look.

There’s smoke as fire consumes an American Airlines plane on an O’Hare runway Friday. The cause? Uncontained engine failure. A disc inside the plane’s right engine failed, sending engine parts flying nearly 3,000 feet away.

One got lodged in this UPS facility. There were also other runways nearby.

“It’s only luck that kept it from hitting an airplane,” said Rob Mark, a commercial pilot and publisher of Jetwhine.com. He says the speed of engine debris showering the area was tremendous.

“When something lets go, that momentum has to go somewhere and yes, it would have been just like a missile,” he said.

Panic-stricken passengers scrambled to inflated emergency chutes Friday. CBS 2 spoke to Chicago area aviation lawyer, Floyd Wisner via Skype, who says he believes this same situation has happened at least three times in the past year.

“Definitely some increased inspection is needed, because now, we’ve got three different occurences and if something like this were to happen in the air, a lot of lives would be lost,” Wisner says.

Asked, “What would be your question for GE and Boeing,” Wisner says, “‘What happened guys? Is this a pattern?
I think that’s what I’d really like to know.'”

Boeing says they’re working with the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) in the investigation.  GE did not respond to CBS 2’s request for comment. An American Airlines spokesperson says engines go through all types of maintenance, based on the flight hours of the plane.

A representative from the NTSB described the event over the weekend:

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