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Flames during American Airlines flight come amid increased bird strikes

(CNN) — Two incidents involving American Airlines flights — one of them an apparent bird strike — frightened passengers who saw flames flowing from their aircraft.

In one of the incidents, Phoenix-bound Flight 1958 returned to the airport in Columbus, Ohio, Sunday morning after the crew calmly reached out to controllers: “Mayday. Mayday. Mayday, American 1958. We’ve had a bird strike and an engine failure.”

The Federal Aviation Administration has said bird strikes are a growing concern, due in part to increasing populations of large birds and their inability to hear quieter engines.

Ben Nines was jogging on the Ohio State University campus when he heard a loud pulsing sound. “It sounded like an old Jet Ski jumping across waves but much louder than a typical plane,” Nines told CNN.

Video showed at least seven spurts of fire from the plane’s right side.

Onboard, Matthew Danek heard strange, rumbling sounds during the flight climb-out.

“Genuinely, this was the first time in my life that I was ready to die,” he told CNN affiliate WBNS.

Another passenger told affiliate WSYX about the terrifying minutes. “Everybody was just very shaken up and all of us could see what happening out of the windows on the right-hand side.”

The Boeing 737 — which has two engines — made a safe return to John Glenn Columbus International Airport, said the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating. Danek praised the crew for keeping everyone calm during the landing.

American Airlines said there was a “mechanical issue” during the flight. The airport later tweeted the incident did not involve an engine fire.

CNN has reached out to American Airlines for further comment.

Despite possible catastrophic consequences, a tiny percentage of bird strikes end in injuries. The FAA received 17,191 reports in 2022; thus far in 2023, the tally is 2,319 reports.

Perhaps the best-known bird strike incident was the “Miracle on the Hudson,” on January 15, 2009, when a United Airlines flight was struck by geese and made an emergency landing in the Hudson River in New York.

The agency said the increase in bird strikes has put more emphasis on research and wildlife management. The Columbus airport has used flares and other measures to deter birds from nearing runways.

The other American Airlines incident occurred last Thursday when the crew of Flight 2288 canceled takeoff from Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina. The plane was bound for Dallas-Fort Worth with five crew members and 200 passengers.

The FAA said there was an engine fire. Video taken by passenger Frankie Leggington captured smoke and flames spewing from a wing of the Airbus A321.

“Nobody knows what’s happening so it’s everyone’s first instinct, is the plane is going to blow,” Leggington told CNN affiliate WSOC. “So, everyone is grabbing their bags trying to run up and run in the aisle.”

The aircraft suffered a mechanical issue and was returned to the gate and taken out of service for maintenance, the airline said.