Engine cover of Southwest Boeing plane falls off during takeoff

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A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 returned to Denver International Airport on Sunday after an engine cover fell off and struck a wing flap during takeoff, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Houston-bound Southwest Flight 3695 landed safely in Denver about 8:15 a.m. local time after the crew reported the issue, according to the FAA, which is investigating. The plane — which according to air traffic control audio carried 135 passengers, two lap-held infants and six crew members — was towed to a gate.

Southwest Airlines said in a statement that its maintenance teams were “reviewing the aircraft.” Passengers were flown to Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport on another plane, arriving about three hours behind schedule, the company said. No injuries were reported.

“We apologize for the inconvenience of their delay, but place our highest priority on ultimate Safety for our Customers and Employees,” the statement said. The airline declined to comment further.

Video from the incident posted on social media shows the cover called a cowling blowing open, making the engine visible from a passenger’s window. The cover then rips off as the aircraft appears to be moving along the runway, according to the footage obtained by ABC News and published on X.

In air traffic control audio obtained by KHOU, a crew member reported that “several passengers and flight attendants heard something loud hit the wing.”

“Let’s go ahead and declare an emergency for Southwest 3695,” the crew member said later in the recording. “And we’d like an immediate return.”

The plane was manufactured and certified as airworthy in 2015, when it was registered under Southwest, according to FAA registration records. A Boeing spokesperson referred inquiries to Southwest.

Boeing has been under scrutiny since a door plug blew out of an Alaska Airlines plane in January, forcing an emergency landing. After that incident, the FAA grounded all flights of that model, the Boeing 737 Max 9, for several weeks. While the FAA continues to investigate, it is also auditing Boeing’s Max 9 jets and its suppliers.

Many passengers didn’t realize what had happened in the Sunday incident until word started to spread through the plane, travelers aboard Southwest 3695 told KPRC. Passengers told the NBC affiliate that there was a sense of slight confusion, but the crew responded quickly.

One traveler, Frank Sanger, said the crew did a “terrific job”handling the situation.

“When the captain came out to explain what had happened, the passengers gave him a round of applause,” Sanger said.

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