A United Airlines passenger posted video on social media of what appeared to be flames coming from one of the plane's engines moments after takeoff.
"The engine, it shot like 10 times and I got about six of them on video with flames and it sounded like gunshots, and everyone just kind of freaked out," Gabrielle Guzy said. "It wasn't like a mass panic. Everyone just kind of was shocked, just looking around like does anybody know what just happened?"
The plane I was on had an engine malfunction minutes after take off 😳 pic.twitter.com/maaGiLHD24— Gabby (@gabby_guzy) January 16, 2020
An Orange County resident who was on the flight, heading home from Tel Aviv, said he thought the worst.
"It was a very normal climb out, and we've been on flights hundreds of times, but right as (the pilot) was starting to seem like pull power back a little bit, there were four or five of the loudest bangs I had ever heard," the man said. "We just came from the Middle East, so you're thinking, oh man, is this an engine problem, is it a missile? Everything flashes through your mind."
He added that some passengers sitting near the engine who may have been able to see the apparent flames were screaming.
Passengers said a pilot then came over the intercom to make an announcement regarding the incident.
"He goes, 'That was really unpleasant, for all of you, and certainly for us, too,'" Sonia Prias said.
United Airlines released a statement, saying the plane suffered a mechanical issue and was forced to return to Newark, New Jersey, about 45 minutes later.
The plane circled around the area while dumping fuel before landing safely at the airport, according to passengers. Some travelers also said the flight was initially delayed, with several passengers boarding before departing the plane.
"Maybe we shouldn't have gotten on that plane in the first place if there were that many maintenance issues," Guzy said.
Passengers were re-booked on a later flight, arriving in Los Angeles around 5 a.m. Thursday.