A China Eastern Airlines flight has been forced to abort a flight to Shanghai and turn back to Sydney when a massive hole was ripped in part of its left engine.
Flight MU736 took off from Sydney at 8:30pm on Sunday night and was only about an hour into its trip when the fault occurred.
The plane was turned around and landed safely in Sydney, with firefighters called to the tarmac to assist the pilots, a Sydney Airport spokeswoman said.
No-one was injured in the incident.
Photos of a hole in the engine of the Airbus have surfaced on social media and aviation websites.
China Eastern MU736 Sydney-Shanghai safely returned to SYD after left engine failure. pic.twitter.com/edKRGQCcB6
— ChinaAviationReview (@ChinaAvReview) June 11, 2017
The general manager of China Eastern Airlines Oceania region, Kathy Zhang, said the plane “encountered an engine problem after take-off”.
“The crew observed the abnormal situation of the left engine and decided to return to Sydney airport immediately,” she said in a statement to the ABC.
The airline arranged overnight accommodation for passengers.
“Today the passengers will be arranged to fly to their destinations on either China Eastern flights or other airlines,” the statement read.
“The returned aircraft is currently under investigation at Sydney airport.”
Australia’s national transport safety investigator, the Australia Transport Safety Bureau, said an inspector was sent to examine the plane.
Engine casing ‘ripped clean off’
Aviation expert Professor Jason Middleton, from the University of New South Wales Aviation School, has described the incident as “a very rare event”.
“Remarkable set of photos, most unusual, I’ve never seen that sort of thing happen before,” he said.
“It appears to be on engine one which is the left engine.
“Looks like the engine casing or cowling has ripped off, forward of the fan the main initial compressor blade, it’s ripped clean off.
“Looks like there’s obviously been some preliminary damage in order for that to happen.
“How that might have happened, I’m not sure.”
Professor Middleton said the pilots would normally walk around the plane to inspect it before take off.
“It’s quite possible if there was some minor damage that they didn’t see,” he said.
“At its climbing speed it will be getting faster and faster and that may have been the trigger to rip off some of that engine casing.”
Professor Middleton said the aircraft would be able to fly quite comfortably with power from only one engine.