The Los Angeles-bound flight departed from the Big Apple at 8:40 p.m. local time, staying in the air for roughly 15 minutes before pilots announced that the plane had to return to the airport due to an issue with flight systems. The Airbus 321 eventually landed safely at 9:09 p.m. local time, nearly 30 minutes after its departure.
Upon inspection, investigators determined that the plane's troubles stemmed from the aircraft having a clipped wing. Photos shared on social media by shocked travelers show the plane's left wing missing what appears to be a brick-sized chunk.
— Jeff Tahler (@jtahler) April 11, 2019
What caused the bird to undergo an emergency landing, you ask? According to investigators with the US' Federal Aviation Administration, the missing chunk was likely the result of the plane striking a runway sign during its takeoff.
"The pilot reported that the Airbus 321 may have collided with an object during departure," the FAA said in a statement. "Workers discovered damage to the left wing, possibly caused by striking a runway sign and airport light [prior to its] departure."
A source familiar with the matter told the New York Post that the plane hitting a runway sign or a light fixture clearly shows that the the craft was "off center."
Jeff Tahler, one of the 102 passengers aboard the flight, wrote on Twitter that he'd experienced one of the "most harrowing take offs ever" on Wednesday night.
— TR3V J♫ (@TrevorJerideau) April 11, 2019
Another passenger, Scott Laser, told ABC News that he'd felt something was off early on in the flight when he noticed that the "plane veered left when it hit something."
"Then it took a sharp right turn at takeoff where I was on the right side of the plane and I was looking straight down on the ground," he added. "I cried the whole way back, and many others did also."
Aside from rattled nerves, no injuries were reported. Local media reports indicate that passengers were rebooked on a different flight to the City of Angels.