Boeing-Made Engine Cover Falls Off Southwest Airliner During Takeoff

( — An engine cover on a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 fell off shortly after takeoff from Denver International Airport on Sunday morning, striking the wing flap and forcing the flight to return to the airport, CBS News reported.

Southwest Flight 3695 to Houston landed safely in Denver, and none of the 135 passengers or six crew members aboard were injured.

The flight bound for Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport had climbed to about 10,300 feet when the cover flew off. It returned to Denver 25 minutes after taking off. The passengers were flown to Houston on another Southwest flight about three hours later, landing about four hours behind schedule.

The pilot announced over the speaker system that flight attendants and several passengers reported hearing something strike the wing. It turned out that the cowling came off one of the engines and struck a wing flap after takeoff.

Passengers told CBS News that the pilot kept everyone calm. One passenger said that when the captain came out of the cockpit after landing in Denver and told them what happened, the passengers applauded.

The plane was deemed airworthy in May 2015 and entered service the following month, according to FAA records.

Boeing, which is already under scrutiny over a series of problems with its 737 Max and other planes in recent months, had not released a statement on the incident. Instead, it referred questions to Southwest Airlines.

Southwest apologized for the inconvenience to its passengers and said that it was able to get them on board another flight after only a 3-hour delay.

The airline said its maintenance crews were reviewing the aircraft, however, it declined to say when maintenance had last been done on the engine, Reuters reported.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.

Following a January 5 incident in which an emergency door panel blew off of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max plane shortly after takeoff, the FAA grounded the fleet for several weeks pending an inspection of Boeing’s facility. The agency ordered Boeing to develop a plan to address the quality-control issues within 90 days.

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