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Jet tail conelands on family's lawn in Roosevelt

A slab of metal fell from the sky

A slab of metal fell from the sky and landed on a front lawn in Roosevelt early Thursday evening. Investigators think it's a piece of a plane. Police officers went to check it out after a 6:30 p.m. emergency call. The caller told the police about a suspicious object on the front lawn. (November 6, 2009) Credit: Photo by/James Russell

It's a bird! It's a plane! Well, it's part of a plane.

An engine tail cone hurtled off a Tokyo-bound Delta jet, landing on a family's lawn in Roosevelt, authorities said.

No one was hurt Thursday when the cone-shaped object came flying off Flight 799, which had taken off moments earlier from Kennedy Airport about 10 miles away, authorities said.

Only when the Boeing 777 twin-engine plane was undergoing routine ground inspection the next day at its Tokyo destination did personnel notice the 3-foot-wide, 4-foot-high, 20-pound engine tail cone was missing, said Arlene Salac, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The cone wasn't needed for the plane to fly safely, and none of the 206 passengers or the crew aboard the 14-hour flight apparently detected the part was missing, authorities said.

The cone was a big surprise for the Russell family of Lincoln Avenue, who came home Thursday evening from a doctor's appointment to find the metallic object in the driveway and branches all over the ground that had apparently broken the cone's fall, said Michelle Russell, a New York City schoolteacher who lives with her FDNY firefighter husband James and their kindergarten-age daughter.

"Like an ice-cream cone - just big," Michelle Russell said of the part.

On Friday, Russell said that she "feels blessed" that the object didn't hit her family, their friends, or their home.

"That's like dropping a penny off the Empire State Building," Russell said as their daughter, Glastine, 5, made art in the living room. "If it hits you, you're still dead."

The aerodynamic cylinder was likely traveling about 200 mph - and probably faster because of the cone's aerodynamic properties, said Daniel Harlow, a physics PhD student at Stanford University.

Whatever its exact velocity, Harlow said, it was certainly moving fast enough to be deadly.

James Russell said the family had left at about 2 p.m., so the object landed sometime during the next few hours. Delta said the flight departed at 2:03 p.m.

Salac said the cone that came off the engine helps control noise, makes the plane more aerodynamic and helps the flight be fuel efficient.

The FAA and Delta are conducting investigations, Delta spokesman Anthony Black said. He said the Boeing-777 had a cone with both of its engines and it's "extremely rare" for one of them to come off mid-flight.

Salac said the FAA's inquiry would review the aircraft's maintenance record. An investigation can result in fines, she said.

The Russells are still shaken.

"I feel that if a plane takes off with all its parts," Michelle Russell said, "it should land with those same parts."

With Keith Herbert


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