LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Boeing 747 carrying 449 people made an emergency landing after losing several pieces of an engine shortly after takeoff.
The KLM Royal Dutch airliner bound for Amsterdam was forced to return to Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday after apparently hitting a large bird, authorities said.
No injuries were reported.
Air traffic controllers saw part of the exhaust of one engine fall to the ground and warned Flight 602's pilot, who was feeling vibrations from the damaged engine, KLM spokesman Hugo Baas said.
The pilot shut down the engine and dumped 83 tons of fuel over the ocean to prepare for the emergency landing, Baas said. The plane returned safely to Los Angeles an hour and 40 minutes after takeoff.
Charles Paquette and his wife, Sheila, were walking their dogs near the end of the runway when the plane took off. Paquette said one of the plane's engines appeared to backfire three times.
"There was a big blast of orange fire coming out of the back," Paquette said. "It was pretty scary."
Investigators found damage to the front of the engine and to the engine blades, leading them to conclude the plane hit a bird that must have been larger than a sea gull, Baas said.
"A bird hit the first row of blades and it tore him up and blew off the trailing edge of the cowling," said Joe Hicks, supervisor of air field operations at the airport. "Those blades became unbalanced and banged into other pieces, and those pieces went into the engine compartment."
Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating, but Baas said, "we don't expect to find any structural problem with the aircraft" to have caused the incident.
Three aircraft parts were found at nearby Dockweiler State Beach, police officer Don Cox said.
Richard Parker, an NTSB investigator, said one of the pieces, about the size of a dishwasher, was an exhaust nozzle from one of the four engines.
The passengers were put up overnight in hotels and were to take other flights Monday. Many were badly shaken and applauded once the plane landed.
Janet Anderson was just relieved that it was over.
"The pilot did a superb job, as did the crew," she said. "But it was very scary."
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