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Jet’s Engine Found In New Mexico Desert

April 17, 1985

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ A 3,000-pound engine that fell off an American Airlines Boeing 727 in flight was found Wednesday in New Mexico’s rugged desert, authorities said.

The tail-mounted engine was found by an American Airlines search team, following coordinates provided by the National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB spokeswoman Linda Jones said.

″It’s a pretty desolate area. There’s a few scattered ranches. It didn’t hurt anyone,″ Capt. Guy Dunivan of the New Mexico State Police said.

The engine fell off the plane Tuesday while Flight 199 was flying from Dallas-Fort Worth to San Diego, but the crew and passengers didn’t know it until after the plane landed safely in San Diego.

None of the 90 people aboard was injured.

Once on the ground, several passengers criticized the pilot’s decision to continue to San Diego rather than landing at a closer airport.

The pilot reported engine problems near Gila Bend, Ariz., Federal Aviation Administration officials said. The plane flew another 50 minutes on two engines to land at Lindberg Field in San Diego, where a ground crew noticed one engine was gone as the jet taxied.

″It is our belief that the pilot and the plane both performed admirably given the circumstances,″ American Airlines spokesman Joe Stroop said in Fort Worth, Texas. ″In the pilot’s best judgment, there was no risk to his passengers in continuing the flight. And you have to remember it was his own neck on the line out there, too. He’s not going to take needless risks.″

The 727′s engine mounts are designed to allow an engine to break free if it stops working, a Boeing spokesman said. A sudden engine halt could twist the plane out of control. Engines on Boeing 727s are attached by pylons and a series of bolts.

The only previously recorded 727 engine loss was on April 30, 1974, when one fell from a National Airlines jet flying near El Paso, Texas.

The engine would be examined in New Mexico before being taken by American Airlines to Tulsa, Okla., where more extensive tests would be conducted, Ms. Jones said.

NTSB investigators also planned to inspect the engine, said Don Llorente, acting chief of the NTSB in Los Angeles.

While falling from the plane, the engine made a radar blip on safety board equipment in Albuquerque, Ms. Jones said. Using those coordinates and the jet’s flight plan narrowed the area of the search to southwestern New Mexico, where it was found about 26 miles east of Deming.

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