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Sky Wasn't Falling. Parts Were

Chunks of metal debris falls on Danville neighborhood, hours before FedEx cargo jet touches ground in Texas

By Scott Marshall and Sophia Kazmi


The FedEx pilots didn't know pieces of their plane had fallen off until after they made a smooth landing in Texas. Danville resident Jim Moura, however, immediately suspected what had happened when he heard the thud.

"I knew it was part of an airplane because they fly over the house all the time," said Moura, 83, a retired Kaiser Industries truck driver and administrator. "I thought it was part of the fuselage."

It was metal, 8 to 10 feet long, chest high, Moura said, and painted "a crazy purple."

That chunk of metal and two others that made backyard landings in a residential neighborhood just east of Interstate 680 were part of the covering of the No. 2 engine of a FedEx MD-11 cargo jet, said Donn Walker, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. The flight originated in Oakland shortly before the pieces fell off, and the plane landed safely at Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, Texas, with two pilots and an assortment of packages, said Ryan Furby, a FedEx spokesman.

The pieces fell in an area of Danville east of Interstate 680 and north of Diablo Road: at Moura's home on Betten Court and in yards on Turrini Circle and Adobe Drive, according to Danville police Sgt. George Wright.

Moura said the piece landed on a portion of his roof directly over the master bedroom at 8:20 p.m. Monday. It put some gouges in his home's shake roof.

FedEx workers collected the pieces from the neighborhood in the middle of the night. The parts were taken back to Oakland Airport, where they are awaiting further investigation by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board, Furby said.

The FAA does not keep statistics on how often parts fall off of planes, but Walker said it is "not at all common." FedEx spokeswoman Sally Davenport said Tuesday that in her 25 years with FedEx, she had heard of only one other such incident.

Some in the neighborhood said Tuesday they didn't know anything had happened until seeing police officers on their streets in the morning. Not so Moura, who upon hearing the thud called neighbor Archie McFadden, also 83, and asked him if he heard it. "McFadden replied, 'I didn't hear a damned thing." Moura said McFadden then asked him, "'Jim, what have you been drinking?'"

Moura walked into his back yard, fearing that his chimney had fallen over. Instead he saw the big piece of metal on the roof directly over his bedroom. "I said, 'Holy cow, what is that?'"

Police and firefighters arrived, looked at the object on the roof, didn't move it and left. A police officer returned with a business card and advised Moura to call the FAA in the morning.

Then at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, Moura's wife, Irene, who had slept through Monday night's thud, awoke to someone knocking at the front door. Moura said he heard people walking on his roof.

"They had a ladder by the front door to get on the roof. They came to get the part. They said, 'Don't let anyone take photos of it or touch it.' They said FedEx wants to look at it."

One of the men told Moura there was a plane flying around without a part. "I said, 'That's his problem.'"

FedEx spokesman Furby said it wasn't much of a problem -- at least for the flight crew. He also acknowledged the consequences on the ground easily could have been far worse. "We are grateful that nobody was hurt," he said.

Joada Meeks, a 77-year-old Turrini Circle resident, said she heard nothing Monday night, nor did her 14-year-old poodle, Studley. She learned of it when she went to get the morning paper and saw a police car lingering on her block. Turns out one of the parts landed a short distance from her yard.

"They came and looked all in my back yard and found nothing," Meeks said.

Moura said that with all the planes that fly over his house, he isn't surprised about falling debris now and again. "So anyway, the trials and tribulations of living in Danville," he mused.

FedEx is working with the FAA and the NTSB, and it is following proper protocol on cleanup procedures, Furby said. FedEx plans to contact affected homeowners about the debris, and they can also call FedEx directly at 901-434-8100.

195 Posts
Very scary indeed.

About 6 weeks ago my fiance and I were in the back yard playing with our dog. We live in a heavily populated area. A small Cessna or the like was coming in fairly low over our house. We heard noises, which I honestly thought were firecrackers from elsewhere in the neighbourhood. My finance thought it was the plane.

Just behind the house is an elementary school. By the time the plane just over the school I knew it was going down. It just left our sights seconds before it crashed. We ran over, while calling *55. Ends up the pilot "successfully" crash landed, with minimal damage. Happens that there was another open area on the other side of the school. Never heard for sure what happened to the pilot, but I'm pretty sure they made it. Very spooky! I heard mixed reviews that they either ran out of gas or just had mechanical failure.
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