Titanic star Leonardo Di Caprio, 36, was among 200 jet passengers who had to make an emergency landing at New York's JFK airport when their plane blew an engine on take-off.
Flames spat into the night from the wing of the Delta Airlines flight at the moment it lifted into the air but miraculously the rest of the plane did not catch fire.
But the drama continued when the lights in the passenger cabin went out and some women began to shriek and cry.
For a tense hour, the pilots circled around the city for dumping fuel to make sure the aircraft was light enough to land before making a smooth return to JFK.
Delta Flight 30, a Boeing 767 carrying 193 passengers and 11 crew, had left New York on Sunday at 4.40pm when it immediately ran into problems, according to Daily Mail.
Leonardo, who was traveling to St Petersburg, Russia, to attend a conference on protecting tigers, praised the pilot and flight crew for safely landing the plane, his publicist said.
Delta thanked Leonardo, who was nominated for an Oscar for portraying airman Howard Hughes in the 2004 film The Aviator, for the acknowledgement.
"From one aviator to another, thanks for acknowledging our crews' professionalism and focus on safety," Delta said, The Press Association reports.