A Philippine Airlines plane bound for Boracay had to return to Incheon International Airport due to a bird strike on Saturday night. Some 170 passengers onboard were left in limbo for about two hours as the plane was unable to land immediately because of a problem with the landing gear.
The plane took off from Incheon at 9:44 p.m. Saturday. But some 10 minutes later, its right-side engine suddenly sputtered and sparks flew from the engine's rear end.
It took three attempts before it managed to land on the runway at 11:20 p.m., about an hour and 40 minutes after takeoff.
The plane was already delayed by a tardy maintenance check-up, prompting some passengers to wonder whether problems were being swept under the carpet.
The passengers were especially worried because the plane was the same Airbus A320 that crashed in Philadelphia due to malfunctioning landing gear last Thursday.
After a primary investigation, a transportation ministry official said the problem arose because a bird was sucked into the right-side engine.
"It took the plane about two hours to land, because the pilot and the airport control tower had to make sure that the landing gear was functioning properly," the official added. "Earlier, the pilot heard thuds while folding the landing gear and taking off."
A total of 136 bird strikes occurred in Korea last year, 21 in Incheon, but they rarely force a plane to return.