“We were flying over Niger (to Paris)… I saw a ball of flame for a few seconds and then a large bang on the left side of the aircraft,” Baudelaire Mieu, a journalist with Bloomberg News, told AFP.
“The plane began to roll, everything was shaking and people started to panic. The pilot came on and said 'We have just lost a left side engine. We are returning to Abidjan',” Mieu said.
The Air France-KLM manager for West Africa Jean-Luc Mevellec confirmed the incident.
“Technically, it is what is called an engine blow-out. It is a well-known problem,” Mevellec told AFP.
“It happens from time to time. It is a well-known phenomenon, well understood and crew are well trained on simulators all year long to deal with this time of fault,” he added.
Mieu said the giant four-engined aircraft, the world's biggest passenger jet, “continued to vibrate all the way back to Abidjan. People were praying.”
“It was a close call. I have never been so frightened!”