An American Airlines plane out of LaGuardia Airport was diverted to John F. Kennedy Airport to make an emergency landing this morning after an engine blew, causing engine fragments to fall onto the roof of a Queens industrial park below.American Flight 309, a McDonnell Douglas-80 carrying 88 passengers and five crew members, had just left LaGuardia for Chicago around 8:15 a.m., but was barely in the air when those on the ground heard – then saw – that something was very wrong.”We heard a loud bang and then a few seconds later you heard metal sweeping across the roof,” said Rick Bellini, an employee inside the industrial building where the debris landed.
The shards pierced the rubber roof, some a little smaller than a BlackBerry, others much bigger. A skylight was cracked, as were car windows, while the parking lot was covered with tiny pieces of what appeared to be titanium.
“We heard a very, very loud sonic boom or explosion, followed immediately thereafter of about 30 to 45 seconds of debris raining down, everybody was quite alarmed. We immediately suspected it was a problem with a plane,” said employee Bob Bellini. “We didn’t know if a plane had gone down or was going down.”
The MD-80, designed to fly with one engine, did just that and was diverted to JFK where it safely landed. Meantime, the FAA flocked to this industrial park to gather the metal fragments.
“It’s part of aviation, I mean accidents happen,” said an FAA representative at the scene.
American Airlines maintenance workers believe a turbine failure was responsible for the tiny pieces that broke apart, and incident they say they’ve seen happen before.
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said she’s also seen this before, but said she’s had enough and isn’t buying the line that machines sometimes fail.
“There’s no excuse, no excuse. They’ve got to do whatever is necessary to make sure whatever is put in that sky is safe,” she told CBS 2.
Hours after the event, industrial park employees were still finding pieces of the plane while rethinking the wisdom of working in a flight path.
“It’s nice seeing planes going overhead,” said employee Tom Bellini, who added that it’s nice save for those scary moments when pieces of plane rain down onto the ground below.
American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely did not know the age of the plane or whether it had experienced any major problems in the past.