When Bulls' team plane malfunctioned, Mark Cuban came to the rescue

Jonathan Daniel

The Bulls' team plane blew two engines during a flight last Saturday and scared the crap out of everyone on board. Oddly enough, Mark Cuban let the Bulls borrow his private jet to help keep the team on schedule.

Most Chicago Bulls fans are fixated on the possible return of Derrick Rose and the team's playoff push in the Eastern Conference, but the recent news of an in-flight malfunction on the team plane should help to put things into perspective.

When the Bulls departed from O'Hare Airport on Saturday for their game in Indianapolis against the Pacers on Sunday, one engine on the team's charter plane backfired on takeoff and then did the same during the flight, which eventually forced the pilots to turn the plane around to land safely back at O'Hare. The team later used planes from the Blackhawks and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to get to their game.

It was a scary scene for players, coaches and staff, because nobody could figure out why the plane was taking off after the first backfire or what the secondary in-flight backfires meant to their safety. Bulls radio analyst Bill Wennington retold the incident on ESPN 1000's "Waddle & Silvy Show" (via ESPN):

"Apparently a compressor in engine No. 3 had some trouble, and it sounded like it exploded, but I guess it's like a jet engine backfire, which is very loud. Sparks fly out of it. It happened actually right after ... the captain thrusts the engines forward and it revs up and starts to go, about three seconds after that you hear a 'Boom!' 'Oh, what was that, are we stopping?' The plane keeps going down [the runway] and you're thinking, 'Oh no, why aren't we stopping?'

"It was funny, because we're in the back of the plane, and the engines are right by us, and we hear it. They can't hear it [in the front of the plane]. And apparently they couldn't feel anything. And so we take off fine, and about five minutes later, two more booms, 'Boom!, Boom!,' and a couple people saw flames and sparks and stuff flying out [while looking out of] the window. We're all thinking, 'Well, it's been nice.'"

Um, Bill...that doesn't sound funny at all. It sounds scary as hell. The plane apparently still had two fully-functioning engines operating during the back end of the short flight, but it was noted that "everyone was pretty serious about it" on the plane as the situation was unfolding.

It certainly makes the Bulls' 97-92 loss to the Pacers on Sunday seem a lot less important. The team plane is currently under maintenance, but the team is still expected to use it for the rest of the season.

In the meantime, Mavs owner Mark Cuban helped to bridge the gap by loaning the team his private plane to help them get from Indianapolis to San Antonio, and then to get back home where they will take on the Utah Jazz on Friday night.

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