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Bird Forces Flight to Abort : Travel: A Northwest Airlines jet left John Wayne Airport but had to return after a bird cracked its windshield. No one was injured.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A Northwest Airlines passenger jet was forced to abort its flight to Minneapolis Wednesday after a collision with a bird cracked the cockpit windshield shortly after takeoff from John Wayne Airport, authorities said.

No one was injured and no decompression resulted; the safety glass was badly splintered but unbroken. However, 46 passengers on Flight 116 had to be transferred to other aircraft after the 3:18 p.m. emergency landing, Northwest spokesman Kevin Whalen said.

“It isn’t so much a danger,” Whalen said of the cracked windshield. “It’s not unlike if your car windshield gets shattered. It becomes brittle . . . and more difficult to see out.”

Flight 116 departed from the new Orange County terminal at 2:10 p.m. Minutes later, a bird hit and cracked the right front windshield, where the co-pilot sits, according to Northwest ticketing agent Frank Miranda.

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It took another 40 minutes or so for the Airbus A320 to circle back in the proper approach pattern to John Wayne Airport, he said.

Several passengers said they realized something was amiss when the jet began to lose, instead of gain, altitude.

“I knew something was wrong,” said Tammy Akers, 33, of Mansfield, Ohio. “The flight attendants (had) just started to serve the drinks and the pilot told them over the intercom to return to their seats.”

Christian Wood said the aircraft was over a mountainous area when she noticed a change in course.

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“We were turning a lot and it was really bumpy,” said the 22-year-old Costa Mesa woman who was bound for Washington via Minneapolis to visit her boyfriend. “It was different.”

Miranda said the passengers remained “very calm” throughout the incident.

Northwest spokesman Whalen said such collisions are an occasional hazard.

“It happened a couple of months ago to another airplane,” he said. “When it does happen, we want to make sure that we land and take care of the problem immediately.”

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Miranda said 95% of the passengers were switched to a 4:30 p.m. flight on Delta Airlines. They were scheduled to arrive in Minneapolis two hours late after a stop in Salt Lake City.

Tammy Akers and her husband had taken a vacation from their auto-parts business in Ohio to spend Christmas with relatives in Orange County. After the landing, they decided to spend Wednesday night at an airport-area hotel and catch Northwest’s 6:58 a.m. flight today.

“They were nice,” Tammy Akers said, holding a Northwest voucher that entitled the couple to a free dinner at an airport restaurant.

Wood was not sure what flight she would catch to the nation’s capital but figured it would probably be one scheduled for sometime today. “I have to call him,” she said, suddenly remembering that her boyfriend had planned to meet her at the Washington airport Wednesday night.

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Of the 46 passengers aboard, 43 were headed to Minneapolis and three were scheduled to continue on to Washington, Miranda said.

One of the three, Tuan Do of Mons, Belgium, took the incident in stride.

The computer programmer had come to Fountain Valley to spend Christmas with a friend “and have a few drinks.” He simply made a few telephone calls, carried his bags to TWA and got on another flight to Washington.

His flight back to Belgium leaves from Washington on Friday.

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“So, you see, I have plenty of time,” he said. “And I will continue to fly Northwest--I am in their mileage-for-free-tickets program.”


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