HAVANA, Cuba — Panic gripped passengers on a Fort Lauderdale-bound Southwest Airlines flight that took off from Havana this Sunday and made an emergency landing after the right engine caught fire mid-flight.
After take-off, while climbing, one of the engines caught fire, forcing the pilots to perform a maneuver to safely return to the airport and make an emergency landing.
In a statement, Southwest Airlines said Flight 3923 “reportedly suffered a bird strike on the engine and nose of the aircraft shortly after takeoff”, but “the pilots returned safely to Havana, where customers exited the aircraft through the slides. Due to smoke in the cabin”.
Soon the oxygen masks dropped, forcing the pilots to make an emergency landing. As the plane neared the ground, confusion grew, with passengers being asked to remain calm and cover their faces with their clothes as they found it difficult to breathe. A few minutes later, the plane finally touched down.
Videos recorded by several Cubans living in towns near Havana’s airport captured the moment the plane began spewing smoke from one of the right turbines and turned back to the Cuba terminal.
In a statement released by the Cuban Airports and Airport Services Agency, it was identified as a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 flight (SWA 3923) that took off from José Martí International Airport at 12:05 p.m. today. Enroute to Fort Lauderdale, it discovered failure in one of its engines during the take-off process, and its landing was authorized at Havana Airport following established procedure.”
Cuban airport officials themselves confirmed that “all passengers were evacuated and are in good condition. The causes that led to the incident are being investigated.”
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Southwest Airlines said today’s last flight to Fort Lauderdale is full and the flight to Tampa is full, so it will rebook all passengers on the next flight this Monday.
All affected customers will be offered hotel reservations tonight, the airline said, though it did not release additional information about what happened on the Havana-Fort Lauderdale flight.