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Plane Engine Falls Off Just after Takeoff, Forces Return to O’Hare

January 21, 1989

CHICAGO (AP) _ A Boeing 737 jetliner ″lunged″ and lurched after one of its engines fell off shortly after takeoff Friday, but the pilot safely landed the plane and none of the 32 people aboard were injured, officials said.

Piedmont Airlines Flight 1480, with 27 passengers and five crew members aboard, took off from O’Hare International Airport at 7:35 a.m. for a non-stop flight to Charlotte, N.C., officials said.

″At approximately 1,000 feet, or just moments after takeoff, the right engine separated from the aircraft and landed on airport property,″ said Dave Shipley, spokesman for Arlington, Va.-based USAir Inc., which owns Piedmont.

″I was scared to death,″ said passenger Dante Pacioni, 56, a private pilot who had a view of the wing that lost the engine.

The plane ″lunged to the left″ when the engine broke away, he said, but the pilot maintained control and guided the craft back to an emergency landing at O’Hare.

Elsewhere, a wing panel fell from an Eastern Airlines Boeing 757 near Birmingham, Ala., Thursday night. In Buena Vista, Colo., a commuter pilot glided his twin-engine plane through a mountain pass to safely land in a cornfield Friday after both engines failed.

In Chicago, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mort Edelstein said the 737′s engine landed in a nearby field.

″The engines are designed to detach if there is severe movement (such as vibrations) happening,″ said David Jimenez, a spokesman for Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Seattle.

The Piedmont plane, built in 1981, had gone through 21,000 takeoffs and landing cycles and was considered a relatively young plane, he said.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the accident, said Tim Curtis, an FAA regional duty officer in Des Plaines, Ill.

Passengers from Flight 1480 were returned to the terminal by bus and many left later on another flight, officials said.

The incident delayed a number of other flights at the nation’s busiest airport, and there were some cancellations, officials said.

In Atlanta, the wing panel that fell from Eastern’s Boeing 757 on Thursday night was the third such incident on that type of aircraft and the subject of a service bulletin, government investigators said Friday.

The wing panel, made mainly of fiberglass, fell from Eastern Flight 83 bound for Los Angeles with 110 people aboard. The plane returned to Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. No injuries were reported.

Boeing has issued a special service bulletin on the panel, indicating some problems with its installation, said Jay Golden, chief of the Atlanta office of the National Transportation Safety Board.

No injuries were reported in Buena Vista, Colo., after the emergency landing of the United Express commuter plane with 26 passengers aboard.

Pilot Bob White, 55, of Denver, brought the plane down on an unpaved county road because he had lost too much altitude to make it to the Buena Vista airport a mile away, said United Express spokeswoman Pat Lee.

The plane was in the air about half an hour when the first engine failed, and the second engine went out when the plane was turning back to Denver, Lee said.

Update hourly