A fuel cap fell from an aircraft departing John Wayne Airport last month and struck a moving vehicle in Newport Beach, though no one was injured, officials said Thursday, Jan. 11.
A Balboa Island resident was driving home from a drug store around 4 p.m. Dec. 29 when the cap smashed onto the hood of his vehicle at Park Avenue between Diamond and Sapphire avenues, said Lee Pearl, who posted information on the incident on the social media website Nextdoor.com.
The driver wishes to remain anonymous but gave Pearl permission to speak on his behalf, Pearl said.
The cap left a sizable gash on the hood of the man’s Jeep Grand Cherokee.
“One second earlier and it probably would have injured or killed him,” Pearl said.
The part fell off a United Airlines Airbus A3210 aircraft that was en route to Denver, said Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
“The FAA has been in touch with the gentleman whose car was struck and has communicated with United Airlines, which was operating the plane from which the fuel cap fell,” Gregor said, adding that the agency also spoke with the person who fueled the aircraft.
United Airlines said it is looking into the incident.
“Safety is our top priority,” said United spokesman Charles Hobart. “We are reviewing this incident internally and working with the authorities and manufacturers.”
A valve kept fuel from leaking from the plane, Gregor said.
Pearl, a critic of the departure flight paths out of John Wayne Airport, said similar occurrences or a plane crash could be deadly.
“It’s an indicator of what could happen if there was a catastrophic situation if a commercial airplane is going over a high-density neighborhood instead of going over more open waters where the same incident wouldn’t impact as many people,” Pearl said.
Under a tentative agreement between the city, Orange County and the FAA, airplanes departing from John Wayne Airport will alter routes to avoid flying over some neighborhoods.
Residents have long complained of excessive noise and pollution from planes leaving the airport.