Video United plane sparks and sheds debris

A United Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing at Newark-Liberty International Airport after sparks and debris ejected from the plane. The Boeing 777-200 circled repeatedly over the Atlantic for 90 minutes before turning around and landing at 1 a.m. The FAA has now launched an investigation into the incident, which was captured on video. Here’s what happened.

NBC4 New York

The Boeing 777-200 was en route to Sao Paulo, Brazil when the botched takeoff happened. Gate agent Murtalla Mbacke captured the entire incident on his cell phone and said he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “I actually screamed because I was excited and also shocked like this is really happening?” Mbacke told NBC New York. Read on to learn more and watch the video.

NBC4 New York

According to United, the flight had to land due to a mechanical failure. The sparks were likely caused by a failed hydraulic pump that fell from the sky after takeoff. “It almost seemed like paper was falling, so slowly,” says Mbacke. The plane had to circle for 90 minutes to burn fuel over the ocean to shed weight and ensure a safe landing.

NBC4 New York

“This plane was very heavy, so I knew he couldn’t come back and land because it would be an overweight landing,” says Mbacke. Mbacke also snapped a photo of what appeared to be a piece of debris that had come off the plane. United has confirmed the plane, carrying 256 passengers, landed safely and a replacement flight to Sao Paulo took off Thursday morning.

Side of United Airlines plane
EQ Roy / Shutterstock

“After our plane experienced a mechanical problem shortly after takeoff, it stayed airborne to burn fuel and then landed safely,” United said in a statement. “Passengers disembarked at the gate and a new plane is scheduled to depart this morning.”

United Airlines Boeing 777

This isn’t the first time a United Boeing 777 has encountered problems: A United Boeing 777 en route to Honolulu suffered an uncontrolled engine failure after departing from Denver in February 2021, scattering debris in a Colorado neighborhood.


The FAA released its own statement on the incident and said it will investigate the cause of the failed launch. “United Airlines Flight 149, a Boeing 777-200, landed safely at Newark Liberty International Airport just before 1 a.m. local time today after the crew reported an emergency. The flight departed Newark and flew to São Paulo, Brazil before returning. The FAA will investigate.” Video United plane sparks and sheds debris

Sarah Y. Kim

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