emergency landing
(Credit: Instagram/OnlyInDade)

Unknown Object Punched “Softball Sized Hole” in Aircraft, Prompting Emergency Landing and FAA Investigation

Few details have emerged about an incident that prompted the emergency landing of an Atlas Air flight at Miami International Airport late Thursday evening, following the release of a preliminary assessment by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials.

According to information released by the FAA, the aircraft, Atlas Air Flight 95, experienced failure of its second engine shortly after departure during an evening flight on January 18, 2024.

The engine failure prompted an emergency landing, and the aircraft safely landed at Miami International at around 10:30 p.m. local time.

The aircraft, a Boeing 747, had been traveling to Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, Puerto Rico, at the time of the incident.

“Mayday, mayday, 1095 heavy. Uh, engine fire, request access back to the airport,” the pilot could be heard saying in FAA audio that surfaced following the incident.

“No, we’ll go ahead and land,” the pilot then says. “We have five souls onboard.”

According to an FAA preliminary report, “post flight inspection revealed a softball size hole above #2 engine,” although no additional details were released at that time. It remains unclear whether the hole resulted from an impact with an airborne object or if the damage was caused by other circumstances yet to be determined.

Ground-based observers were able to see the aircraft as flames billowed from its second engine, with videos surfacing online that captured the alarming scene as the blazing aircraft passed overhead.

emergency landing
(Credit: Instagram/OnlyInDade)

“Oh my God, it’s on fire,” a woman is heard saying in one video of the incident, which appeared on the Instagram community channel Only in Dade (onlyindade).

The woman can be heard calling to her mother, wondering aloud if the plane would be attempting to make an emergency landing.

The FAA identifies three categories of emergency landings, which include forced landings, where an aircraft must land immediately after its ability to fly has been impacted because of factors that include engine failure, as with the January 18 incident.

Additional categories include precautionary landings, which result from circumstances where further flight is inadvisable, and ditching, which occurs when a forced or precautionary landing must occur on water.

According to FAA guidelines, air traffic controllers are required to prioritize and give way to any aircraft that declares a need for an emergency landing.

As of Friday afternoon, the FAA had not revealed any additional details about what circumstances might have led to the hole discovered above the aircraft’s second engine on Thursday night.

The agency said in a statement that it plans to conduct further investigations into the possible cause of the damage that caused the aircraft’s emergency landing.

Micah Hanks is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of The Debrief. He can be reached by email at micah@thedebrief.org. Follow his work at micahhanks.com and on X: @MicahHanks.