Investigators examine Spirit Airlines plane's engine that was damaged by in-flight failure

WASHINGTON – Investigators are examining the engine of a Spirit Airlines plane damaged during an in-flight failure on Tuesday to determine the seriousness of the incident.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Eric Weiss says initial reports indicate the engine experienced an “uncontained” failure, meaning pieces escaped the outer housing of the engine. That’s especially dangerous because the pieces can spray like shrapnel, damaging the plane.

But Weiss said it is possible the engine experienced a less serious failure in which pieces are released through the back of the engine where they are unlikely to jeopardize the safety of the plane.

According to Spirit, Flight 165 was en route to Atlanta when there was smoke in the cabin and the pilot shut down one engine. The plane then returned to Dallas.