On Friday evening, a FedEx MD-11 made an emergency landing at Memphis Airport. The cockpit crew reported a left engine failure during the initial climb and circled back around to land without incident. However, several eye- and ear-witness reports tell of loud explosions and balls of fire as the plane passed overhead.
The plane was on its way from Memphis International Airport, Tennessee to Minneapolis. During the initial climb from runway 36L, the air traffic control tower advised the pilots that they seemed to have an engine stall.
Booms that shook houses
As reported by the Aviation Herald, the crew of Flight FX715 declared an emergency. They said that they seemed to have a left-hand engine failure but were able to stabilize it. The pilots halted the climb at 2,000 feet and turned the plane around to land on runway 36C about eight minutes after take-off.
According to WJHL.com, several people reported hearing loud explosions. The booms were so loud that they “shook their houses” as the plane headed north after halting the climb. At least one individual said they had seen six or seven large fireballs erupt from the plane.
Emergency services met the aircraft, which landed without incident. After initial checks, the plane taxied safely to the ramp. No one was injured in the process, and a spokesperson for FedEx said maintenance crew would check on the plane.
Plane back in the air Monday morning
The plane in question, a near 23-year-old McDonnell Douglas MD-11, is registered as N529FE. Before joining the FedEx fleet as a converted freighter in 2006, it flew passengers for American Airlines.
The cause for the failure and subsequent explosions is still unknown. The aircraft, named Kalleigh Grace, had the weekend off but was back in the air again today, Monday, November 30th. The plane took off at close to 06:30 local time from Memphis and is, at the time of writing, above Kansas City and on its way to Anchorage in Alaska.
Simple Flying has reached out to FedEx for a comment on the cause of the incident but was yet to receive a reply at the time of the article’s publication. We will return with an update as soon as we know more.
Other FedEx MD-11 adventures
This is not the first FedEx MD-11 to get up to a little adventure this year, which is perhaps not that strange, as the carrier operates 59 of them. During the monsoon season in June, N583FE was operating Flight FX5033 between Bangalore and Mumbai in India. Upon landing, it overshot the runway, which was under the assault of a heavy cyclone.
In April, N619FE also had an incident in Memphis as it arrived from San Antonio, Texas. Or rather, there was no apparent incident at first, but after landing, the crew realized that the plane’s front right wheel was missing. The aircraft was subsequently grounded for three days.