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LAX-Bound Flight Forced To Turn Around Due To Same Mechanical Problem That May Have Led To Fuel Dump

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A plane bound for Los Angeles had to return to Newark, New Jersey Wednesday night after experiencing a problem similar to the one that led to a fuel dump on several Los Angeles-area schools.

Passengers arrived at LAX safely early Thursday, about seven hours later than scheduled, after United Flight 1871 experienced a mechanical issue and had to turn around.

"We heard a really big boom, like 'boom, boom, boom, boom!' and literally right next to me there was like flames sparking from the wing," passenger Michy Silverstein said. "The gentleman that was sitting next to me said that he he felt heat from the side of the plane."

Paul Crouch and his wife immediately feared the worst.

"We were just in the Middle East, and we're seeing the news," he said. "And you don't know -- is that a missile, a terrorist attack, an engine exploding?"

Video taken by a passenger shows a flare coming from the engine. Wednesday's flight appeared to also experience a possible compressor stall, the same issue experienced by a Delta flight bound for Shanghai on Tuesday that led to the dumping of fuel on several schools in Los Angeles, Cudahy and South Gate.

CBS News transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave says a compression stall can be scary for passengers.

"But as far as the danger of the flight situation, it's a typically low-level emergency," he said.

In both cases, the pilots were able to land the planes safely. The United plane circled over the ocean before returning to Newark, whereas on Tuesday, the pilot flew over populated areas and released fuel over schools in Cudahy, even though the pilot had told air traffic controllers earlier it wouldn't be necessary.

The FAA is now investigating why that happened and may compare how the two incidents were handled.

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