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Possible Plane Debris Found In College Point

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TWC News: Possible Plane Debris Found In College Point
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Investigators are trying to determine if metal found on the roof of a Queens building is from a plane that was forced to make an emergency landing Wednesday morning at John F. Kennedy Airport.

Shortly after American Airlines Flight 309 departed from LaGuardia Airport at 8:17 a.m., the pilot reported engine problems.

The MD 80 plane landed safely at JFK just after 8:36 a.m. None of the 88 passengers and five crew members aboard the plane were injured.

Shards of metal were later found on the rooftop of Varsity Plumbing and Heating in College Point.

"We just heard a loud bang, a loud crack, and several seconds later you heard something hitting the roof," said Rick Bellini, Varsity Plumbing's vice president.

"We raced outside to make sure that we had no injuries and that all of our employees are okay," said President Robert Bellini of Varsity Plumbing. "We immediately shifted our attention to the safety of those on the flight and we began to contact the authorities."

Debris was also found in the parking lot, but only several cars were damaged.

"I'm lucky it didn't hit me in the head. It would have killed me," said Richard Bentze, owner of one of the damaged cars. "Thank god it went through a window and nobody was in the car."

Port Authority personnel collected the debris to turn over to the Federal Aviation Administration for investigation.

"This is what we believe is referred to as an uncontained engine failure, where parts of the engine actually come out of the engine," said Arlene Sarlac of the FAA. "We also have the reports of the shards of metal that were found on the rooftop of a business in Flushing. We currently have our FAA inspectors at the site. They will take the pieces of metal and they will examine them to determine if they came from this engine."

No one on the ground was injured by the falling debris.

Sarlac with the FAA says engine failures are not uncommon and do not necessarily mean that the engine had been hit.

Earlier this year, a bird strike disabled both engines on a plane bound for Charlotte, N.C., forcing it to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall released a statement in regards to today's incident, calling on American Airlines to stop using older aircraft like the MD 80.

"I urge American Airlines and any other airline still operating older aircraft, such as the MD 80 model in our airports to expedite the transitions of their fleets to more modern, state-of-the-art aircraft," said Marshall. "The airlines, which are struggling to thrive in this economy, owe no less than this to its travelers and the communities that they serve."

An American spokesman said the airline has 265 MD 80s, and that the model is a very safe aircraft with a superb history. There are no plans to ground any of the planes.

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