A Japan Airlines plane bound for New York made an emergency landing at Tokyo’s Haneda airport Tuesday as flames were seen coming from its left engine, the transport ministry said.
A total of 251 passengers and crew members were aboard the plane, but no one was injured.
The operator of the Boeing 777 first suspected a bird strike, but the ministry later said there was no sign that birds had been hit by the aircraft.
JAL Flight 6 took off from Haneda airport at 11 a.m., heading in a northerly direction. An onboard alarm indicated trouble with the left engine shortly afterward and the aircraft notified air traffic control.
After the pilots shut down the left engine, the plane returned to Haneda and landed at 12:09 p.m.
After the landing, the transport ministry’s office at the airport confirmed via a monitor that flames were coming from the plane’s left engine and noticed smoke rising from grass near the northern edge of the runway. The runway was closed and shattered aircraft parts were later found there.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said it found some damage to turbine blades inside the engine.
According to JAL, the Boeing 777 is a twin-engine plane capable of continuing to fly with a single engine.
Most passengers were transferred to a different plane that left Haneda later on Tuesday.
“There was an announcement shortly after takeoff that the plane was going to return because of engine trouble. The crew appeared tense, while the passengers were calm,” said passenger Makiko Kobayashi, a 43-year-old associate professor at Kumamoto University. “But I didn’t think the engine was on fire.”
Miki Yashiro, a resident of Chiba Prefecture who saw the plane near the airport, said she heard successive “huge bangs” and was surprised to see orange flames coming from the plane’s left engine.
“The plane sharply turned course at a low altitude so I was worried that it might crash,” she said.