Passengers grabbed bags from overhead lockers and ignored crew members instructions to remain seated after a bird strike during takeoff caused an engine fire on a Spirit Airlines flight from Atlantic City on Saturday evening.
Spirit Airlines flight NK3044 was due to depart Atlantic City for what should have been a routine flight to Fort Lauderdale when a bird was sucked into the right-hand side engine at around 5:45 pm.
The ingested bird caused the engine to catch fire but the pilots were able to successfully stop the plane on the runway.
Passengers were initially ordered to remain seated as the pilots assessed the situation. Although there was no immediate danger to any of the passengers, many ignored crew member instructions and started to grab large rollaboard bags from the overhead lockers.
“Remain seated, remain seated, remain seated,” shouted one flight attendant but to no avail. Cellphone video recorded a passenger onboard the aircraft showed flames and smoke coming out of the right-hand side engine.
“We need to get out of here,” yelled one passenger as a second tried to keep others calm in the melee.
As the smoke dissipated and the atmosphere in the cabin started to calm, the evacuation alarm was sounded and the Captain announced: “Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate”.
Almost immediately, one passenger asked: “Are we taking our bags?” as others reached for their carry-on bags. Flight attendants yelled at passengers to leave all their belongings behind.
Modern jet planes are designed to be evacuated in 90 seconds or less but cellphone video showed passengers being evacuated by emergency slides at least two and a half minutes after the evacuation alarm was first sounded.
New Jersey Govenior Phil Murphy tweeted on Saturday evening. “All passengers and crew were successfully evacuated off the plane, and no serious injuries reported. The airport has reopened.”
In a statement, a spokesperson Spirit said: “The captain braked safely and brought the plane to a stop, received an indication of damage to the engine, and ordered an evacuation in accordance with our standard procedures.”
“We commend our crew for handling the situation swiftly and safely.”
It wasn’t immediately clear how many passengers and crew were onboard the aircraft.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.