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Bermudians Unfazed by Aircraft Engine Fire in Belize

Flames streaking from the engine of a commercial aircraft are never a welcome sight for those on board at several thousand feet.

Two Bermudians on an American Airlines flight from Belize City to Miami on Thursday counted themselves lucky to learn of that unsettling scenario after the fact — once AA700’s captain had returned them safely to the ground in Belize.

Owain Johnston-Barnes, a senior reporter at The Royal Gazette, said he noticed something amiss perhaps ten minutes after take-off.

“There was a loud noise coming to my right hand side — it sounded like a sneaker bouncing around in a dryer,” he said.

“A few minutes later, we heard an announcement from the captain saying they would be turning around and coming back.”

Passengers were told there was “an issue with the engine”, he said, but the captain did not elaborate.

After a six-hour wait in Belize, a new aircraft got them to their destination.

Fellow Bermudian traveller Charles Doyle happened to be sitting on the right side of the aircraft “right in front of the right-side engine”.

“I heard a loud bang — at the same time, there was a reverberation in my seat,” Mr Doyle said. “The noise continued for about 30 seconds to a minute, and you could tell it was not a noise that was meant to happen.”

He added: “I freaked out for five seconds, then just calmed down and figured, it’s in the pilot’s hands now.”

The plane landed minus one engine, which was examined by emergency workers on the runway.

Mr Doyle said camaraderie built among passengers as they waited for their replacement flight — including with people who had been sitting farther back and able to view the stricken engine.

One of them, John Wayne Adams Jr, had used his mobile phone to record the scene outside his window.

Mr Doyle said: “I would have been a lot more scared, because this one guy sent me a video of flames just shooting out of the engine.

“What was interesting was it wasn’t until after the situation that everyone realised how serious it had been.”

He said “everyone had different stories depending on where they were sitting on the plane”.

But the rattling experience turned out to be Mr Doyle’s second encounter with an aircraft engine going up in smoke.

“About 20 years ago the exact same thing happened taking off from Bermuda to Toronto,” he said.

The engine lit up as the Air Canada flight was about to take off from LF Wade International Airport.

But Mr Doyle took a relaxed view of the experience.

“It’s a freak accident,” he told the Gazette from Miami. “It’s not going to turn me off flying.”

Source: Royal Gazette