United Airlines Boeing 737 Suffers Flaming Engine Failure & Returns to Houston

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  • A United Airlines Boeing 737-900 experienced engine failure after takeoff from Houston.
  • The incident was captured by a passenger who was onboard the 737-900.
  • United Airlines dispatched a replacement aircraft to carry passengers to the destination.

A United Airlines Boeing 737-900 suffered an engine failure shortly after departing Houston, Texas, with a passenger capturing the incident on video. The aircraft returned safely to its origin airport less than an hour after it left Houston.

Operating flight UA1118

The Boeing 737-900, registered as N31412, was operating United Airlines flight UA1118 on March 4, 2024, when shortly after departing Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), the aircraft suffered an engine failure.

According to Flightradar24 data, the United Airlines aircraft departed IAH for its destination, Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), at 18:40 local time (UTC -6), having been scheduled to arrive at RSW at 21:40 (UTC -5). The flight never squawked 7700, the general code for an onboard emergency during the event.

Pictures and a video shared by a user on the social media network X, formerly known as Twitter, showed the aircraft’s left-hand engine spewing flames. The 737-900, like other 737 Next Generation (NG) aircraft, is powered by two CFM International CFM56 engines.


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167 passengers onboard the 737-900

On air traffic control (ATC) audio recordings provided by LiveATC, one of the pilots was heard telling the approach controller at IAH that the 737-900 was carrying 167 passengers. The pilot clarified that the aircraft’s number 1 engine was either surging or stalling and that the flight crew was running through a checklist at 18:52.

United Airlines Boeing 737-900 at Austin-Bergstorm International Airport AUS shutterstock_2417473007

Photo: lorenzatx | Shutterstock

After entering into a holding pattern, the United Airlines 737 circled to the east of IAH. Shortly after, ATC approved the flight to land on Runway 27 using an instrument landing system (ILS) approach at the flight crews’ discretion.

The aircraft circled for around 15 minutes before safely landing at Houston’s primary airport at 19:12. It then proceeded to taxi to the gate area. Later on, the flight crew said that as it was circling, it was still running the checklist and talking to people on the ground, performing multiple tasks in a high pressure situation.


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A compressor stall is usually associated with a loud bang, and it can lead to flames coming out of the engine exhaust.

Replacement aircraft

Flightradar24 data shows that United Airlines dispatched another 737-900, registered as N30401, to complete the itinerary between IAH and RSW. The aircraft departed the former airport at 22:12, landing at its destination at 00:50 on March 5.

Meanwhile, the aircraft which suffered the engine failure is scheduled to return to service on March 6. On that day, United Airlines scheduled a return flight between IAH and Orlando International Airport (MCO) to be completed on flights UA2212 and UA1469.

United 737-900 taking off

Photo: Markus Mainka I Shutterstock

According to ch-aviation data, Boeing originally delivered the 737-900 to Continental Airlines in April 2002, shortly after the aircraft operated its first flight. When the two airlines merged in 2012, the aircraft’s ownership was transferred to United Airlines.

In total, N31412 has accumulated 60,356 flight hours (FH) and 24,831 flight cycles (FC) since it was delivered as of December 31, 2023. Ch-aviation estimated that in January and February 2024, the airline added 465.60 FHs and 228 FCs onto the airframe, with the 737-900 being in the air for an average of 7 hours and 46 minutes.


History: Why Did Continental & United Airlines Agree To Merge?

Mergers were seen as a way to grow the network and save money.

  • N14106 United Airlines (Her Art Here-California Livery) Boeing 757-224 (1)

    United Airlines

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Guam International Airport, Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport

    Year Founded:

    Star Alliance

    Scott Kirby

    United States

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