Japan Airlines 777 Makes Emergency Landing As Engine Cover Comes Loose

A Japan Airlines Boeing 777 had to make an emergency landing at Naha Airport in Okinawa after parts of the number one engine cover came loose. Images of the incident seem to suggest that the engine may have suffered an uncontained failure.

Japan Airlines, Boeing 777, Engine Failure
A Japan Airlines Boeing 777 today returned to Okinawa following an engine failure. Photo: Getty Images

While engine failures are, thankfully, rare, they can have fatal consequences. In 2018 a Southwest Airlines passenger suffered fatal injuries after an uncontained engine failure. However, a British Airways Boeing 747 previously flew from LA all the way across the Atlantic on three engines following an incident on departure. Despite this, aircraft will usually divert as a precaution when an engine fails, although a Smartwings pilot decided against this last year.

What happened?

Upon departure from Okinawa, Japan Airlines flight JL-904 was due to fly to Tokyo’s Haneda airport. The aircraft departed from Okinawa as would be expected. However, after departure, it suffered from what appears to be an uncontained engine failure of the left engine.

Japan Airlines, Boeing 777, Engine Failure
The aircraft involved is just under 24 years old. Photo: Getty Images

Photos appear to show gaps inside the engine and a significant chunk of the aircraft’s engine missing. According to The Aviation Herald, the aircraft reportedly stopped its climb at FL190, suggesting that the incident happened a fair time after departure.

However, the aircraft was then turned around and landed back in Okinawa approximately 35 minutes after departing. Unfortunately, a lack of coverage in the area means that the flight details are unavailable on the significant flight tracking websites. After landing, the aircraft was reportedly towed from the runway, where it came to a stop, to the apron. Japan’s aviation authority has opened an investigation into the incident.

Japan Airlines, Boeing 777, Engine Failure
Thankfully, the aircraft was able to return to its origin. Photo: Getty Images

According to the Av Herald, the aircraft involved was JA8978. Planespotters.net indicates that the aircraft is 23.5 years old, having first flown in June 1997. It was delivered to Japan Air System that month, before being transferred to Japan Airlines Domestic in April 2004, and Japan Airlines in October 2006.

Previous 777 incidents

Thankfully it seems as though nobody was harmed in today’s Japan Airlines Boeing 777 incident. However, the 777 as an aircraft type has always had a very low fatality record. Indeed, only two Boeing 777 incidents have suffered a significant number of fatalities. All 298 onboard flight MH 17 were lost when it was shot out of the sky with a missile. Meanwhile, 239 were lost when MH 370 vanished over the Indian Ocean.

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The third incident that involved passenger fatalities was the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 that was written off when it landed short in San Francisco in 2013. Three passengers died due to the incident, making it the first fatal accident of a 777.

Two further incidents have caused fatalities. However, both of these were bystanders on the ground. A ground worker was injured refueling a British Airways 777 in Denver in 2001. Meanwhile, a firefighter was killed after an Emirates Boeing 777’s fuel tank exploded in 2016.

What do you make of today’s incident? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!