An American Airlines flight was forced to return back to the airport after a possible bird strike.

The Boeing 737-800 had departed from Columbus to Phoenix on Sunday morning before a crew member reported the strike at around 8am (EDT), the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

The plane which was carrying 173 passengers and crew, had to turn back shortly after and manage to land safely, American Airlines said in its own statement.

“The flight landed normally and taxied safely to the gate under its own power.

“The aircraft was taken out of service for maintenance and our team is working to get customers back on their way to PHX.

“Safety is our top priority and we thank our customers for their understanding,” it added.

John Glenn Columbus International Airport said in a statement posted on Twitter that emergency crews responded to the incident.

“Emergency crews responded to an aircraft incident at CMH this morning involving a reported engine fire.

“The aircraft landed safely and the airport is open and operational,” it added.

The mid-air scare was captured on camera with flames shooting alongside the plane’s engine.

On the plane’s telecommunications radio, the pilot is heard saying: “That is affirmative, we uh lost the number two engine on the bird strike with high vibration.”

The airport initially blamed an engine fire, but it later said “mechanical issues” prompted the aircraft’s return.

A passenger on the plane told NBC News that she could hear “people on the plane crying” after the engine went up in flames.

“My heart just broke honestly for so many people on this plane, I could hear them crying and I just wanted us all to be okay.”

Last month, a SouthWest Airlines plane heading from Cuba to Florida was forced to turn back after it collided with birds.

The airline said it “experienced bird strikes to an engine and the aircraft’s nose”.

The plane landed safely in Cuba, with no injuries reported, and some passengers left the aircraft using the emergency exit on the wings, while others used the inflatable slides.


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