**Update: 08/09/20 @ 05:10 UTC – Statement included from Atlas Air spokesperson.**
On September 5th, an Atlas Air 767-300 heading from Honolulu (Hawaii) to the US territory of Guam was forced to divert back to Honolulu. The decision was made after the aircraft’s right-hand engine had suffered repeated engine surges/compressor stalls. While the plane landed safely and no injuries were reported, some terrifying passenger video of the engine emitting flames was posted to the internet.
“An Atlas Air passenger flight landed safely at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu following a mechanical issue with one engine. At Atlas, safety is always our top priority and we will be conducting a thorough inspection to determine the cause.” -Atlas Air spokesperson
What happened to flight 5Y-8585?
Taking place on September 5th, Atlas Air’s flight 5Y-8585 had taken off from Honolulu airport just before 21:00. Other reports note that it departed from ‘Hickam Air Force Base,’ which is adjacent to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, sharing the same runway facilities.
The aircraft itself had actually arrived from Anchorage (Alaska) earlier in the evening, touching down at approximately 18:40.
With 212 people onboard, The Aviation Herald notes that the aircraft was in the initial climb out of Honolulu’s runway 08R when the crew declared an emergency. It was reported that the 767 was suffering a right-hand engine (CF6) failure due to repeated engine surges/compressor stalls. In fact, the engine was emitting bangs and streaks of flame. The frightening scene was captured on video and can be viewed below:
— Breaking Aviation News & Videos (@breakingavnews) September 6, 2020
The aircraft stopped its climb at 2,000 feet. Working through its severe engine damage checklist, the crew shut the engine down and requested an ILS approach to runway 08L. It landed safely 30 minutes after departure.
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Isn’t Atlas Air a cargo operator?
It’s not often we hear of an Atlas Air flight carrying over 200 passengers. But while you might be more accustomed to seeing Atlas Air aircraft flying cargo missions, the company does indeed operate passenger charter services as well. In fact, Atlas Air also operates charter flights for US forces, with the airline saying:
“Atlas Air has long been the largest provider of commercial airlift in the wide-body cargo segment in the United States Air Mobility. We provide essential world-class airlift support for the men and women defending the United States and its interests around the globe.”
The fact that the aircraft was headed to Guam and the brief flashes in the video show men with military-style haircuts leave little doubt that this particular flight was a military charter operation. ABC News is also reporting that this flight was a military charter.
About the aircraft
The aircraft involved was a Boeing 767-300 with registration N649GT. The twinjet is about 28 and a half years old and first flew with now-defunct Hungarian airline Malev. It had since flown with China Southern Airlines and LAN. The aircraft has been with Atlas Air since May 2016.
It was actually not too long ago – in February 2019 – that an Atlas Air 767 suffered a fatal crash in Houston.
At nearly 30 years old, having flown regular passenger service most of its ‘life,’ is this aircraft too old to be safely flying hundreds of passengers? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Simple Flying reached out to Atlas Air, requesting an official statement. However, at the time of publication, no response has been received from the company.