United flight from SF to Boston diverted due to damaged wing; passenger recounts experience

ByJ.R. Stone KGO logo
Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Passenger speaks after SF-Boston flight diverted due to damaged wing
A passenger on a plane from San Francisco to Boston took video showing damage to a flap on the wing that caused an emergency landing in Denver.

SAN FRANCISCO -- A United Airlines flight headed to Boston from San Francisco on Monday was diverted due to damage on one of its wings.

The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Denver. No one was hurt but we are now seeing video of the damage and hearing from passengers on board.

"I immediately opened the window, looked out there going, well that's not good!"

Kevin Clarke, who is an announcer on the World Pro Ski Tour, took video on a flight from San Francisco to Boston Monday.

He says he was a bit concerned after takeoff when he felt the plane shaking.

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"All of a sudden I hear this loud vibration and noise that I've never heard from a plane before and it stopped within seconds and I'm like, well that's good it stopped," Clarke said.

Clarke says a short time later one of the pilots then walked down the aisle, looked out the window, and went back to the cockpit.

"Minutes later, he comes on the PA system and announces that we've sustained some damage to the slat underneath the wing," says Clarke.

On air traffic control audio this could be heard:

"We have an emergency coming inbound from the Northwest."

The plane was then rerouted to Denver where it successfully landed. As to the extent of the damage on the 757, here's ABC News aviation expert Steve Ganyard.

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"If the damage had been more to the front part, it could have affected the controllability of the airplane. Luckily, in this case, it was in the rear and really didn't have much effect on how the airplane handled," said Ganyard.

Clarke, along with the other passengers, were then put on another plane to Boston. He's back home now with his wife but still thinking about what happened on that initial flight.

"Actually went through some incredible turbulence you know, probably half an hour before he came on and talked about it. That's where I really got panicked cause I'm like boy, if this wing is flopping now in this turbulence what's going to happen, so I kept looking at the window, looking at the edge of that wing and was like I don't see anymore parts missing so that's good," said Clarke.

All 165 people on board are OK. As for the cause, Ganyard could only talk about what might have happened.

"When you see this kind of break it could be a kind of fatigue. That airplane is fairly old and perhaps the part just gave way because of age or because of use, or it could have been some sort of maintenance problem where it wasn't properly rigged and it was rubbing against the wing itself," says Ganyard.

The FAA hasn't given a cause, only saying that the incident is under investigation.