DENVER (CBS4)– Jim Belton, an airline pilot for United Airlines for 25 years, watched the events of Saturday unfold and noticed something about the Boeing 777 that suffered a blown engine. The Honolulu-bound United Flight 328 suffered engine failure Saturday shortly after takeoff.

(credit: CBS)

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“I recognized the tail number,” said Belton.

His records showed he flew the same plane years earlier in his career, without any issues.

“I got a chance to fly the very same one that had the incident on Saturday,” said Belton.

And he noticed something else, the captain and first officer flying the 777 handled the mid-air emergency precisely as they were trained.

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“I think in retrospect they would say this was like a training event. There’s no substitute for having two well-trained on the flight deck,” said Belton.

(credit: Cindy)

The Airline Pilots Association said the captain who was in charge Saturday has been with United since 1990 and had 20,000 hours as a captain. The first officer joined the airline in 1999, according to ALPA, and had 11,000 hours in the 777. The pilots are based in San Francisco.

Belton told CBS4 that United pilots train every nine months for situations like what happened Saturday. He said the training takes place in Denver, on simulators. Belton, who has about 5,000 hours flying 777s, said what occurred this past weekend on the Honolulu- bound flight is “extremely rare, we haven’t see this very much at all.”

The flight, with more than 200 on board, circled back and landed safely at Denver International Airport following the engine explosion.

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“They did everything right. It appears these guys are heroes. There’s a fine line between someone who goes to work every day and does their job and someone who has an opportunity to take all that training and experience and turn themselves into what I think these guys are and I think they’re heroes,” said Belton.

Brian Maass