Passenger Aboard Pan Am Jet Thought It Was The End
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A Pan Am jumbo jet began to vibrate after losing a 6-foot-long wing slat, but returned to the airport here after dumping its fuel into the Pacific and none of the 192 people aboard was injured, officials say.
The Boeing 747 landed at 1:50 p.m. Thursday, 43 minutes after it left San Francisco International Airport en route to Tokyo, said Walt Fuller, a Federal Aviation Administration specialist.
Emergency crews were alerted and stood by as Capt. Dwight Wygant dumped 150,000 pounds of fuel to lighten the plane and make it safer for landing, authorities said.
Airman 1st Class Alfred Conley, who was sitting beside the emergency exit over the left wing, said that about two minutes after takeoff, ″a big hunk of the wing just came off. It tore off like a piece of paper.″
″It kind of made me want to panic at first,″ he said. ″It didn’t do anything to the plane, but it made it vibrate real hard.
″Once the first section of the wing came off, another piece under it shot up and it (the wind) threw that to the top of the plane over our heads. We heard a big thump,″ said Conley, who was headed for an Air Force assignment overseas.
FAA administrative assistant Lovey Williams said none of the 177 passengers or 15 crew members was injured.
Pan Am spokesman James Arey said ″the vibration was not unlike that of a takeoff.″ He said the 6-foot-long, 18-inch wide leading edge slat that broke off was one of 13 slats found on each side of the aircraft. The slats help lift the plane on takeoff.
The airline and the FAA were investigating the incident.