SAN FRANCISCO – A Qantas jet headed for Australia returned safely to San Francisco International Airport early Tuesday after a problem with one of the engines forced pilots to turn back.
Flight 74, carrying 212 passengers and a crew of 18, left San Francisco for Sydney at 11:05 p.m. PDT Monday and returned at 12:45 a.m. Tuesday, San Francisco airport duty manager Carol Spear said.
About 15 minutes into the flight, the crew noticed vibration in engine No. 4, Qantas Airways spokesman Simon Rushton said by telephone from Sydney. The crew shut down one of the four engines on the Boeing 747 and sought priority clearance to return to San Francisco.
The pilot dumped fuel over the Pacific as a precaution, he said.
There were no injuries during the emergency landing, Rushton said, and the plane was able to pull up to the jetway at the terminal so passengers could deplane.
Rushton said there was no fire, but an engine surge can often cause what appear to be flames.
"Engineers have determined the engine does need replacement, and they are checking to see what caused the problem," he said.
The flames created a large hole in the engine cowling, the metal shell around the engine.
"I heard a thud, a bump and the plane veered off to the left," passenger Nolan Goldstein told KTVU-TV. "It was very uncertain for a period of time until the captain announced that we had an engine that blew up. ... It was a real uncomfortable vibration at first and then the plane began to shake a bit."
Qantas put the passengers up in hotels for the night and planned to make arrangements for them to get to Sydney on Tuesday, Rushton said.