The flight took off from Fort Myers at 12:12 p.m. Wednesday afternoon when the unexpected happened.
“About 10 minutes into the flight, there was this loud bang noise right outside my window. It sounded like a gunshot or canon,” passenger Cliff Maloney told Fox News.
Maloney, president of the Young Americans for Liberty, told Fox News as soon as the noise happened, the left engine started to quiet down and the right engine started roaring to over-compensate.
“I looked out my window at the [left] engine and I could see it was sputtering,” he said.
“We've all seen [the movie] ‘Sully’ so that was my first gut reaction, ‘what if the other engine is out and we're just drifting?’” Maloney added. “All of us on the plane were worried and obviously fearing the worst.”
Soon after the engine malfunction, the pilot came on the intercom and informed the passengers they would be making an emergency landing.
“The tone in his voice was very reassuring and calming. It was like he had full control of the situation,” Maloney said.
The flight attendants started preparing the passengers for landing as the pilot made a full U-turn back to the Fort Myers airport.
Though Maloney said he was reassured by the pilot’s calm demeanor, once he saw the rescue and emergency services waiting for the plane on the runway, he started to panic a little.
“It got real when we were approaching the runway,” he said.
Fortunately, the plane landed at the Florida airport safely and after an inspection by the fire rescue team, all 79 passengers deplaned without incident.
“Everyone on board took the time to thank the pilot as we were getting off,” Maloney said. “He handled everything like a true professional.”
United Airlines released a statement to Fox News apologizing for the inconvenience.
“United flight 2397 from Fort Myers to Newark safely returned to the airport for a mechanical issue. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience caused by this delay in their travels. We are working to get them to Newark as soon as possible.”
Several passengers had already been placed on new flights to Newark.