Air Force fighter has close commercial jetliner

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LOS ANGELES - An F-117 stealth fighter on a training flight came within 500 vertical feet of a United Airlines jet carrying 173 people.

No one aboard the Air Force jet or the United plane was injured Thursday, and the airliner continued to Boston, where it landed safely.

Separately, a Continental Airlines DC-10 dropped turbine parts onto a runway at Newark International Airport during an aborted takeoff. No injuries were reported, but 237 passengers had to get off the plane on the tarmac.

The fighter jet incident occurred shortly after United Flight 174 left Los Angeles International Airport.

The Boeing 757 was flying at about 10,800 feet when its on-board radar equipment detected an approaching aircraft. The United crew kept the plane at that altitude until the F-117 Nighthawk passed overhead, airline spokeswoman Chris Nardella said.

Preliminary reports showed the aircraft were within 500 feet vertically and six-tenths of a mile horizontally, FAA spokesman Jerry Snyder said.

According to Visual Flight Rules, which the Nighthawk follows, ''this 500 feet separation was within safe perimeters for all passing aircrafts,'' Snyder said.

The F-117, which is able to evade radar, was broadcasting its position publicly when the incident occurred, the Air Force said.

The stealth jet flies out of Palmdale, about 60 miles from Los Angeles.

In New Jersey, severe engine trouble caused parts to shoot from the rear of an engine Tuesday.

Turbine blades and metal debris were found on the runway, said Jim Peters, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

It was the second time in five months that a Continental flight has had such a problem at Newark, The Record of Hackensack, N.J., reported Friday. On April 25, a plane returned to the airport 34 minutes after takeoff with two of its three engines failing, blown tires, and ruptured hydraulic lines.

Both incidents happened on Flight 60 for Brussels, Belgium. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

''The anomalies you are talking about with the two engines on Flight 60 takeoffs are atypical, but they are not unheard of,'' Continental spokesman Dave Messing said.

The incidents are the latest DC-10 problems for Continental. French investigators announced Monday that a stray length of metal that gashed a tire of a supersonic Concorde, leading to a fuel tank fire and dooming the flight, probably came from a Continental Airlines plane that took off on the same runway four minutes earlier. The crash killed 113 people.

Continental officials are cooperating with that investigation but have not said the part was from one of their DC-10s.


On the Net:

Air Force fact sheet for F-117A Nighthawk:

United Airlines:

Continental Airlines:

Federal Aviation Administration:


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