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Pittsburgh-Bound Flight Returns To LaGuardia Airport After Bird Strike

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The rumble of the tires racing down the LaGuardia runway had just silenced and American Airlines flight 2107 lifted into the air when it happened.

"We were probably fifty to a hundred feet off the ground when we hit," says Brad Jones of Beaver Falls.

Jones was sitting over the left engine when he saw something pilots would later identify as a bird went into the engine.

"I'm not going to lie to you it shook! I saw the engine shake and the wing. I'm sure most people on the plane thought it was turbulence and I went oh boy," says Jones. "I tried to self-diagnose the engine and there wasn't smoke or anything coming out of it so I figured we were okay."

Moments later passenger Pierce Frauenheim from O'Hara Township says the pilot was on the public address system.

"The pilots handled it extremely well. Over the PA they announced what was happening in a calm voice which kept the entire aircraft calm."

The incident made everyone on board immediately think of Captain Sully Sullenberger and the Miracle on the Hudson.

"We sucked a bird into the engine and everyone is not hearing it because we didn't end up in the East River or the Hudson," Frauenheim said.

Jones says pilots warned that there could be a smell in the cabin from the bird and in fact, "then this really bad smell came into the cabin and I didn't realize the air conditioner in the engine was connected to the cabin somehow."

But the smell was not what Jones was concentrating on.

"I was ten feet from the engine and it wasn't moaning or anything, or trying to struggle after the incident," he said.

Frauenheim who has ten years military flying experience says the pilots made the right decision to return to LaGuardia because there is no guarantee a problem won't develop later if the bird damaged the engine.

The pilots never did declare an emergency. The just asked air traffic controllers for permission to return to LaGuardia.

Back on the ground 15 minutes after takeoff passengers were told it could take maintenance a couple hours to five a thumbs up for the plane to continue on its flight to Pittsburgh.

Frauenheim didn't feel comfortable with that, "I don't know how much you can borescope an engine in two hours and I wasn't feeling good about it."

So Pierce chose to take a bus ride home.

Eventually, American Airlines decided to cancel the flight and rebook 98 passengers on other flights.

With almost all of the daytime flights to Pittsburgh full before the incident, many of the displaced 2107 passengers waited in LaGuardia all day for the available seats on evening flights.

American Airlines apologized in a statement: "We never want to disrupt our customers' travel plans, and we are sorry for the trouble this has caused."

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