A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 that was on its way to California to be grounded had to make an emergency landing shortly after takeoff at Orlando International Airport on Tuesday.
Southwest 8701, which was occupied by a pair of pilots and no passengers, took off from Orlando, Fla., just before 3 p.m. local time, a spokesperson for the airline told Global News.
However, pilots reported a “performance issue” with one of the engines shortly after takeoff and returned to Orlando, where they made a safe emergency landing.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the engine complaint was not related to the software problem blamed for two recent fatal crashes involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8, the Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10 and the Lion Air crash in Indonesia on Oct. 29, 2018.
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Both crashes occurred after the planes suffered malfunctions soon after takeoff, with the 737 MAX 8’s anti-stall software one of the key areas of focus for investigations.
The engines on 737 MAX aircraft are not manufactured by Boeing but by CFM International, a joint venture between American company GE Aviation and Safran Aircraft Engines of France.
The CFM LEAP-1B engine “is designed for the rigours of single-aisle operations and tailor-made for the 737 MAX,” according to Boeing’s website.
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The Southwest plane was on its way to Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, Calif., where Southwest has been sending its fleet of 34 MAX aircraft for storage.
It will instead be moved to Southwest’s maintenance facility in Orlando for a review, the spokesperson said.
The 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft have been ordered grounded across the U.S., but the FAA has allowed airlines to conduct passenger-less flights to move their aircraft to other airports.
A spokesperson for Orlando International Airport told the Associated Press that one of the airport’s three runways was shut down for cleaning after the emergency landing as standard procedure.
A Boeing spokesperson told Reuters the company was “aware of the incident and supporting our customer.”
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— With files from the Associated Press and Reuters