Flames erupted from a Southwest Airlines jet on Tuesday evening, August 15, shortly after taking off from Houston’s Hobby Airport.
The plane, bound for the Mexican resort city of Cancun, was forced to make an emergency landing due to a mechanical issue.
Flight 307 experienced an engine fire moments after take-off. Video footage captured by onlookers on the ground showed flames shooting out of the right engine, accompanied by thick black smoke. Andrew Sandino, a 38-year-old mechanical engineer, witnessed the scene from below.
“I noticed big black plumes of smoke coming out of the right engine. It then started shooting really big fireballs out, and the plane was shifting back and forth, side to side, quite heavily,” Sandino recounted. “I was thinking this plane might crash. If that engine were to completely explode and send shrapnel everywhere, the plane could plummet to the ground.”
Fortunately, the aircraft landed safely at Hobby Airport after just 16 minutes in the air, and passengers were transferred to a different plane for their journey to Cancun.
In a statement, Southwest Airlines confirmed that Flight 307 had experienced a mechanical issue and had been taken out of service for further review.
Despite the concerning footage, Kathleen Bangs, a former commercial airline pilot and spokesperson for FlightAware, commented that the plane was likely never in danger. “The jet can operate safely on one engine,” Bangs explained, referencing her own experience flying the Houston-Cancun route.
Southwest Airlines remains one of the few major U.S.-based carriers without a fatal crash in its history.