A China Southern Airlines flight from northeast China to the southern city of Guangzhou made an emergency landing yesterday morning after an engine hood fell off during the flight. No one was injured.
The cowling of a China Southern Airlines flight falls off in flight.
Part of the cowling on the left engine of the Airbus 320 was missing shortly after Flight CZ3624 took off from Harbin, capital of the northeastern Heilongjiang Province, about 8:30am, the airline said.
"We heard a big bang when the aircraft was still ascending and passengers sitting near the left engine informed the crew members that the cover fell down," a passenger on the flight said.
The crew followed emergency procedures and the pilot flew back to Harbin Taiping Airport.
"The captain told us other parts of the aircraft were working well and they decided a make an emergency landing," a passenger identified as "cigarette ash prince" said on his microblog.
"Finally, we landed smoothly and the passengers applauded," the passenger added.
The aircraft circled the airport to consume fuel before landing safely at 9:52am, the Guangzhou-based carrier said in a statement.
The cause of the accident was still under investigation, while the airport authority said none of the missing cowling parts had been found. No casualties were reported on the ground from falling parts.
Passengers were moved to another A320 aircraft to take them to Guangzhou at around 11am.
Cowlings are used to protect the engine but the aircraft can still fly without the part, said Zhou Jisheng, a civil aviation expert.
However, losing part of the cowling might cause problems if the exposed engine were damaged by turbulence or the falling cowling hit other parts of the aircraft, so the pilot should make an emergency landing, he added.
In a similar case, the cowling of a Turkey Airlines A320 aircraft fell onto the runway in Istanbul when the aircraft was about to take off in November 2009. It returned and made a safe landing.