So here’s what happened.
My friend Chris Selcer and I were hanging out on my porch, smoking and chatting, when we heard a noise like the world’s biggest car backfire: BAP-BA-BA-BA-BA-BA-BAP! Chris immediately said “That’s a plane engine going out.”
We looked up…and there, between us and the Strip, was a Southwest Airlines plane…and the right (starboard, yeah?) engine was on FIRE. A tight, long (maybe 30-40 foot) stream of pure yellow flame ripping out the back. No smoke.
I think we both said “Holy fuck!” at the precise same moment. We jogged down to the end of the block to follow it. It was headed east-northeast, and it wasn’t gaining altitude — it was only 1000-2000 feet up at that point — and we thought it was about to drop out of the sky. We thought the pilot might try to make it to Nellis Air Force Base, north…but we didn’t think he was gonna make it that far. But we didn’t hear a boom and we didn’t see smoke.
Other neighbors and passers-by came over. One of my neighbors had a police scanner and he heard it was a Southwest flight and that the pilot was gonna try to circle around the city counterclockwise and come back to McCarran Airport. But we couldn’t see the plane.
And that was all, really, until I saw on Twitter — via local newsman Dave Courvoisier — that the plane landed safely.
But I have never in my life seen anything like that. I mean, I know that a plane can fly with one operational engine, but it was so loud and so…well, so totally on fire…that I thought it was gonna come down in suburban Vegas.
I’m glad all the passengers on Flight 273 got out safely, if Twitter is telling me correctly.