News Update: A second United Airlines flight, bound for Seattle, declared an emergency and returned safely to Newark Airport. Apparently there was smoke in the cabin and flight deck. Investigation is ongoing.
United Airlines FLight 96, a 757, had just taken off, bound for Berlin, when a mechanical issue developed forcing the plane to return to Newark. There were 173 passengers and crew on board. Witnesses saw flames coming from the engine right after takeoff. There is speculation that perhaps a blown tire or debris from the runway somehow was sucked in to the engine causing the fire. This incident is reminiscent of the Air France Concorde disaster in 2000. Debris from a DC-10 on the runway punctured the tire of the Concorde and set off a series of events that led the plane to crash in to a hotel killing 109 people on the plane and 4 on the ground. It’s a reminder that no matter how routine flying has become, pilots must constantly be aware of, and react to, potentially catastrophic situations. The plane circled the airport burning off fuel before landing safely at 8:05PM. Other arrangements were made for the passengers to fly on to Berlin.