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A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 on its way from Orlando to a temporary storage facility in California made an emergency landing shortly after takeoff Tuesday afternoon.
Southwest Flight 8701 was headed from Orlando International Airport to Southern California Logistics Airport, an aircraft storage facility in Victorville following the Federal Aviation Administration’s recent grounding of the plane following two fatal crashes in less than five months.
The flight, which had no passengers on board, took off at 2:47 p.m. EDT and landed back at the airport at 2:58 p.m., according to flight tracker FlightAware.
The FAA said it is investigating the incident. It said the crew declared an emergency due to a reported engine problem on takeoff.
Southwest Airlines said the plane returned to the airport after pilots reported a “performance issue” with one of the engines.
“The crew followed protocol and safely landed back at the airport,” Southwest spokesman Dan Landson said in a statement.
The plane will now be moved to Southwest’s Orlando maintenance facility for a review, the airline said.
The FAA grounding, announced two weeks ago, allows so-called ferry flights with no passengers. That allows airlines to get the grounded planes to a storage facility or airports with room to accommodate them.
Southwest has 34 Max 8s in its fleet, the most of any U.S. carrier. American is next at 24.
Southwest decided to store its fleet of Max 8s in one place, Victorville.
The airline has already flown more than two dozen Max 8s to Victorville from airports across the country, moving several aircraft a day, and hopes to have the process completed this week, spokesman Dan Landson said.
The airline has regularly used the Victorville facility for certain aircraft maintenance, and having the Max 8s in one place will be efficient because of the maintenance required for parked planes, he said.
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