It took 12 years for Ronald McGinniss to convince his wife to fly again.
And it only a few moments on American Airlines Flight 1853 on Friday convinced her to never again fly the skies. One of two engines on the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 they were on failed, forcing the plane to return to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
“It was loud,” Mr. McGinniss said. “We thought a bomb went off.”
An airline spokesman said Sunday that a turbine problem caused an engine failure.
“The mechanical folks are taking a look at it and will give us an idea of what the problem was,” said Charley Wilson, the airline spokesman. “The engine has been changed out and the aircraft has been returned to service.”
Katherine McGinniss used to fly frequently until she was on a plane that made a hard landing in a bad thunderstorm.
“I told my husband that I was never going to fly again,” she said Sunday from her hotel in Dallas. “After 12 years, he finally got me to have the courage to go back up.”
On Friday morning, the McGinnisses of Fayetteville, N.C., their 15-year-old daughter and her best friend left Raleigh headed to Colorado Springs, Colo.
The first leg of the journey to Dallas went off without a hitch — until they switched planes. Flight 1853 with about 140 people on board departed for Colorado Springs about 1:45 p.m.
Mrs. McGinniss said she immediately noticed an unnerving high-pitch whining sound coming from the engines. She clinched her husband’s hand, hoping all would be OK.
About 15 minutes into the flight, with the plane at about 12,000 feet and having just crept above the clouds, they heard a loud boom.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that,” said Mr. McGinniss, who frequently travels for his job with the U.S. Army. “My feet lifted off the floor from the concussion.”
The plane landed safely at 2:15 p.m., but it didn’t lessen Mrs. McGinniss’ fears.
Mr. McGinniss boarded another flight and continued on to their final destination, where he had work to do. His wife, daughter and her friend stayed in Dallas, refusing to board another plane.
After visiting relatives who live in the area, they plan to rent a car and depart Dallas on Tuesday morning to return to Raleigh.
The McGinnisses believe that the engine exploded. “Even one of the stewardesses on the plane said it exploded,” Mr. McGinniss said.
American Airlines officials deny that the engine exploded, noting that, regrettably, engine failures do occur.
“In the course of flying several hundred flights a day, you’re going to have natural wear and tear on engines,” Mr. Wilson said. “We don’t expect these things to happen frequently, but we have a great’’ maintenance program.
American Airlines has a fleet of about 300 of the aging McDonnell Douglas MD-80s, a narrow-bodied plane that accounts for nearly half of the airline’s total airplanes.
More than 3,000 flights were canceled in April, as American – at the behest of the the Federal Aviation Administration – reinspected wiring in the wheel wells of its entire MD-80 fleet. The airline also canceled almost 500 departures in the prior month to do an earlier inspection of the wiring.