We had a compression stall of the port engine on a UA 737-300 about 12 minutes out of ORD to ONT. It was a rough turnaround, presumably due to asymmetric thrust, and we waited about 45 minutes to land. What is a compression stall and how common is this type of incident and how much danger were we in?
It probably was a compressOR stall. The compressor section of a jet engine (as its name implies) compresses the air, and downstream of that, fuel is added and combustion takes place. There is a massive volume of air moving through an engine, and sometimes disruptions can occur. I wasn't there obviously, but it appears the crew shut the engine down, and returned to ORD.
As far as emergencies go, this sounds like more of a "procedural" emergency versus a genuine "oh-my-gawd-get-this-sucker-on-the-ground-or-we're-all-gonna-die" types of emergencies (ex. Valujet afire trying to return to MIAmi.) On *any* twin-engine airliner (737 to 777) shutting down a engine mandates a landing at the nearest suitable airport in point of time.
Certainly wasn't the "routine" flight you expected, but I personally don't think you were in any great peril. My airline flies over 300 aircraft with 3000 flights a day, and we have *maybe* a handful of engine shutowns a year.
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