CHICAGO (STMW) -- Isabel Campuzano's flight from O'Hare Airport to Fort Lauderdale had been in the air for just a few minutes early Saturday when she noticed something outside her window no airplane passenger ever wants to see — a piece of the plane peeling off in the air.
"It was like the metal slipped open, and a big old chunk fell off," the south suburban woman said Saturday night, hours after Spirit Airlines flight 419 lost its right engine cowling and returned safely to O'Hare.
"You see the actual engine exposed," said Campuzano, 31, of Burnham. "I thought the plane was going to fall down or something."
Campuzano said she and other passengers noticed the missing piece and alerted flight attendants.
The crew of the Airbus A-319 plane, which had taken off shortly before 6 a.m., declared an emergency, and the plane returned to O'Hare without any problem, airline spokeswoman Misty Pinson said.
Crew members helped passengers off the plane, Pinson said.
Chad Musolf, a businessman on his way back to Florida, tells CBS 2 it was "unnerving" to look out the window and see the exposed engine. But he said there was no loud bang or pop.
The cowling — an engine housing — was found on airport property and was being inspected. The airline had no information on what caused the cowling to fall off.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.
Campuzano got on another Spirit flight and made her way to South Florida, though she missed her connecting flight to Jamaica, where she and her boyfriend plan to vacation. She and a group of others bound for the island were spending the night at a hotel in Fort Lauderdale.
Also among that group was Robert Smith, of Bellwood.
"I was thanking God that they noticed it right away," Smith, 43, said of the passengers who saw the cowling fall away. Otherwise, he said: "I don't think we would have made it to Florida."
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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